The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams took the field together, the scoreboard operator had difficulty keeping up. Tampa Bay's first trip to Los Angeles in 26 years was worth the wait, as the result was the highest-scoring game in franchise history – both in terms of the Bucs' points and the overall score – and one of the most rousing wins of 2019. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans combined for 261 yards and three touchdowns and former Ram Ndamukong Suh clinched it with a fumble-return touchdown.
Depending upon how well a couple of prominent Rams rookies fare in the shoes of the departed Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, and how quickly the Buccaneers loaded-on-paper offense jells into a dangerous unit, the rematch a year later could be just as explosive.
That rematch will take place in prime time when the Rams come to Tampa to cap the NFL's Week 11 slate of games. That Monday Night Football contest will be the fifth prime-time game that the Buccaneers play in a seven-week span, a run that includes one other Monday-nighter as well as two Sunday-night showcases and one Thursday evening affair.
Los Angeles Rams
2019 Record: 9-7
Scoring Offense: 11th (24.6 points per game)
Total Offense: 7th (374.9 yards per game)
Rushing Offense: 26th (93.7 yards per game)
Passing Offense: 4th (281.2 yards per game)
Scoring Defense: 17th (22.8 points per game)
Total Defense: 13th (339.6 yards per game)
Rushing Defense: 19th (113.1 yards per game)
Passing Defense: 11th (226.6 yards per game)
Turnover Margin: t-15th (0)
Forward-thinking Head Coach Sean McVay helped the Rams snap a 12-year playoff drought in his first year at the helm and guided them all the way to the Super Bowl in his second, but the team took a step back last year, still finishing above .500 but missing out on the playoffs. McVay and Rams General Manager Les Snead have followed a very aggressive approach to roster building, with trades for players like Jalen Ramsey and Brandin Cooks and big deals for potential foundation pieces like Todd Gurley and Jared Goff. That has raised the difficulty level for those roster architects in 2020, however, as a number of notable contributors have been released, traded or allowed to walk in free agency. The Rams also haven't made a first-round pick since Gurley and Goff in 2015-16, and don't currently own one in next year's draft, either.
The Rams are still loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, however, beginning with the 2017 and 2018 NFL Defensive Player of the year Aaron Donald, who was a short-list candidate for that award last year, too. Ramsey is also an elite talent at a critical position who will be going into his first full season as a Ram after costing the team a pair of first-round picks last year. Defensive end Michael Brockers also returned to the Rams after a deal with the Ravens fell through, and the team added a potential edge-rushing standout in the third round in Alabama's Terrell Lewis.
The first-overall pick in 2015, Goff saw his efficiency dip a bit last year but he still has a career 91.9 passer rating and an average of 263.3 passing yards per game, and he threw for 4,638 yards in 2019. The Rams ran 76.3% of their offensive plays out of three or four-receiver sets last year and still have a talented group of pass-catchers after trading Cooks to Houston. The Rams can still run three-receiver sets with Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds, though it's likely that third-round pick Van Jefferson out of Florida will work his way into that mix. In addition, tight end Tyler Higbee was one of the most productive pass-catchers at any position over the season's final five weeks (43-522-2) and the team used a fourth-round pick on another potentially impactful tight end, Purdue's Brycen Hopkins.
Rams' 2020 Draft Class: RB Cam Akers (Round 2, 52nd overall), WR Van Jefferson (Round 2, 57th overall), DE Terrell Lewis (Round 3, 84th overall), S Terrell Burgess (Round 3, 104th overall), TE Brycen Hopkins (Round 4, 136th overall), S Jordan Fuller (Round 6, 199th overall), LB Clay Johnston (Round 7, 234th overall), K Sam Sloman (Round 7, 248th overall), G Tremayne Anchrum (Round 7, 250th overall)
The Rams also have a ready replacement for Gurley after they were forced to release their former workhorse back for cap reasons. Gurley had nearly 4,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 40 times in 2017-18 but knee issues limited him to "only" 1,064 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. Stepping into that void is second-round pick Cam Akers, the former Florida State back who produced despite playing behind a poor offensive line with the Seminoles. He may have better luck in the NFL, though the Rams line was less effective last year than the previous two. The team did re-sign stalwart left tackle Andrew Whitworth but otherwise made no changes to that unit.
Key Veteran Additions: OLB Leonard Floyd (FA), DT A'Shawn Robinson (UFA)
Notable Departures: RB Todd Gurley (Released), WR Brandin Cooks (T-HOU), LB Cory Littleton (UFA), LB Clay Matthews (Released), OLB Dante Fowler (UFA), CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (UFA), K Greg Zuerlein (UFA)
The Rams should be in line for a compensatory pick or two next offseason because their 2020 offseason was marked by more notable departures than arrivals. In terms of unrestricted free agents, they added some interior-line depth with former Lion A'Shawn Robinson but were otherwise quiet. Meanwhile, Pro Bowl linebacker Cory Littleton left for the Raiders, while edge rusher Dante Fowler signed with Atlanta. Fowler had a breakout season with 11.5 sacks last year; Los Angeles may be hoping that some of his production can be replaced by former first-rounder Leonard Floyd, who they picked up after he was released by the Bears. David Long looks like the likely replacement at nickel corner for the departed Nickell Robey-Coleman.
The Rams also will need a new kicker with Greg Zuerlein moving on to Dallas, though Zuerlein saw his field goal success rate drop from 87.1% in 2018 to 72.7% last year. Los Angeles did use a seventh-round pick on Miami of Ohio kicker Sam Sloman. Barring a veteran addition, which is obviously a possibility, Sloman would be competing with Austin MacGinnis and Lirim Hajrullahu, a pair of kickers who enjoyed success in the XFL and the CFL, respectively.
The Buccaneers and Rams have met 23 times in the past, most recently last year's shootout, and the Rams hold a 14-9 edge overall. The two franchises also share a pair of NFC Championship Games, with the Rams taking both contests in 1979 and 1999. The latter game, during the Rams tenure in St. Louis, remains one of the most memorable in Bucs history, an 11-6 final in which Tampa Bay's suffocating defense held its own against The Greatest Show on Turf. The two teams then had a rematch late in the 2000 campaign that produced perhaps the greatest non-playoff game in team history, a 38-35 Monday Night Football shootout won by the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.