Rams-Buccaneers betting preview: Now or never in the NFC?

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In our betting preview for Bengals-Titans, we discussed the cause for a quick line move from the projected line of TEN -2.5 to -3.5, and what drove that change. For Sunday's NFC matinee between the Rams and Buccaneers, we have something of an opposite situation.

Rams @ Buccaneers (-3, 48)

Unlike the Bengals and Titans, the projected or "lookahead" line for this game had the Buccaneers favored by more than a field goal, only to see it open on the short side of -3 and not cross back.

Why the big adjustment before bettors could weigh in? The collective health of both teams, for starters. These teams matched up in Week 3, and comparing snap counts back then to Wild Card Weekend tells an interesting story.

LAR Cam Akers 0% 53%
LAR Robert Woods 88% 0%
LAR Odell Beckham Jr. 0% 67%
LAR Von Miller 0% 59%
TB Mike Evans 84% 81%
TB Chris Godwin 96% 0%
TB Tyler Johnson 47% 77%
TB Breshad Perriman 0% 49%
TB Leonard Fournette 36% 0%

The Rams had to replace Robert Woods in the middle of the season with Odell Beckham Jr., but that's like replacing an apple with an orange. It wasn't as simple as Beckham doing the same things within the Rams' offense. It took time to integrate. Meanwhile, the Rams saw the true return of Cam Akers last week, as their incumbent starting tailback saw more snaps than Sony Michel in only his second week back from a preseason Achilles tear.

Both Beckham and Akers make the offense better than it was through much of the season. Meanwhile, you can plainly see how Tom Brady has had to adjust to the change in his personnel. On top of that, Brady spent much of the second half against the Eagles on his back after right tackle Tristan Wirfs hobbled off the field. His replacement, Josh Wells, frequently found himself in trouble on passing downs long after the Bucs had the game won. Both tackles are listed as questionable for Sunday, as is center Ryan Jensen.

The last two matchups ended 27-24 and 34-24 in favor of the Rams, with both teams moving the ball with relative ease. A quick look at the running stats from those matchups with these teams as close to currently constructed shows it might be tough sledding in Tampa.

@TB (2020) 37 42
@LAR (2021) 76 35

Apparently learning their lesson from the first meeting last year, the Bucs handed the ball off just 10 times in L.A. this season, resulting in a former Michigan Wolverine becoming their leading rusher. Brady's not looking to tote the rock three times for 14 yards as he did that day and will be looking to throw early and often. Unfortunately, without a full complement of targets, and his line in suspect condition, will that work?

With the Bucs' defensive line hyped as a collective unit that defends the run well, it's the Rams who have given up fewer yards per rush this season at 3.9 compared to 4.4 for Tampa.

The Rams have been systematically built to beat the Bucs, adding Von Miller to Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd in the pass rush. Matthew Stafford's four touchdowns and 343 yards in September hinted he may be the answer, but with +3 costing Rams bettors -120, they're not getting a deal on that bet.

I expect something of a shootout with more possessions than usual as both teams look to throw first and ask questions later. In what should be a back and forth affair, the total is more attractively priced.

As for the side, I'll be waiting until Sunday afternoon. If a market correction comes that moves this game to a flat Rams +3 (-110) or better, I'll back Los Angeles. Otherwise, I'll tease them up to at least +8.5 with the Bills +8.5 and hope we have a pair of classics to set up the conference championships.

Pick: Over 48 / Rams +9 (Teaser leg No. 1)

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

Rams-Buccaneers betting preview: Now or never in the NFC?
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