Bucs Could Be Without 3 Key Offensive Starters Vs. Rams

NFL Divisional: Bucs Could Be Without 3 Key Offensive Starters Vs. Rams

The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers have opened as 3-point home favorites for Sunday’s NFC Divisional Round game against the Los Angeles Rams, who will be on a short week after beating Arizona on Monday night. However, the Bucs could be without three important offensive starters in running back Leonard Fournette, center Ryan Jensen and offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs.

Let’s take a look at the following analysis for your NFL odds.

NFC Divisional Round Game Analysis

In last week’s easy win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Wirfs, who was named first-team All-Pro in the regular season, missed the second half due to an ankle injury suffered on the opening drive of the game. Wirfs returned to the game briefly in the second quarter but was hardly in all-pro form. He gave up a sack late in the quarter to Ryan Kerrigan after being steamrolled on a bull-rush. At halftime, the Bucs officially ruled him out for the rest of the game.

Wirfs was the first Buccaneer offensive lineman to be named first team All-Pro in franchise history. He was drafted 13th overall out of Iowa in the 2021 NFL Draft and has yet to miss a game during his career. He’s also a key element in the ascension of the Bucs’ offensive line.  Per Pro Football Focus, Wirfs has allowed three sacks over the course of 2,529 snaps throughout his career.

While Jensen appeared to be in significant pain after suffering a leg injury on the Bucs’ second possession, he did not miss an offensive snap in the contest vs. the Eagles. Coach Bruce Arians called Jensen “as tough a dude as there is playing this game.” Neither Wirfs nor Jensen will practice until Friday in order to recover before testing their availability at the end of the week.

Fournette has not played in a game since Dec. 19 when the Buccaneers lost to the New Orleans Saints, 9-0. During that game, Fournette injured his hamstring and was placed on injured reserve after the injury. Fournette had 34 yards on nine carries up to that point in the game. On the year, Fournette has rushed for 812 yards and eight touchdowns on 180 carries. Last year during the playoffs, Fournette ran for 300 yards and three touchdowns in four playoff games. He had 93 yards and a score during the divisional round and then 89 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl. The team decided not to activate him from IR for the Eagles game but could vs. the Rams.

Backup Ronald Jones (ankle) is also out, so the Bucs had to rely on Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Le’Veon Bell and Giovani Bernard against Philly,

The Buccaneers faced the Rams back in Week 3. Los Angeles jumped out to a 21-7 lead in that game en route to a 34-24 win. Tom Brady threw for 432 yards in a losing effort, while the Rams received 343 yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Matthew Stafford. Two of his touchdown passes went to Cooper Kupp.

It could not have played out much worse for the Buccaneers. The Rams have beaten them twice in the past two seasons and are perfectly set up to face the Bucs. The common knowledge of how to disrupt Brady is pressure up the middle and the Rams have Aaron Donald to do just that. If Jensen comes into the game limited, Brady could be in for a long day of Donald in his face.

This is just the third time all season that the Rams are listed as underdogs. In their other two games, they won both, beating the Cardinals in Week 14 and the Buccaneers in Week 3. The winner of Sunday game will take on the victor in the 49ers-Packers contest in Green Bay on Saturday night. If the Buccaneers defeat the Rams they would either play at Green Bay or at home against San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.


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