The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) will look to get back to .500 and notch their fourth road win of the season when they take on the 5-8 St. Louis Rams on Thursday night in the Edward Jones Dome. Here are a few individual matchups that could play a key role in determining the outcome of Thursday's game:
G Ali Marpet vs. DT Aaron Donald
Bucs OC Dirk Koetter expressed his respect for Donald in a press conference this week, and rightfully so. Donald is Pro Football Focus's highest-graded defensive tackle and ranks fifth among all defensive positions with 11 sacks this year. Marpet and his fellow interior linemen will have their hands full with Donald and must keep him from blowing up the middle in order for the Bucs' offense to find a rhythm.
RB Doug Martin vs. LB Mark Barron
Barron, a former Buccaneer, was moved from safety to linebacker in St. Louis and currently leads their team in tackles with 97. He'll play a big role in tracking Doug Martin, who needs just 38 yards to take over the NFL lead in rushing yards. Martin is also just 87 yards away from moving into third place in Bucs all-time single-season rushing yards. He would then own two spots in the top three in Bucs history; his 2012 rookie performance (1,454 yards) ranks second on the list.
WR Adam Humphries vs. CB Janoris Jenkins
Humphries found the end zone for the first time in his career last week against the Saints, and could see more opportunities if WR Vincent Jackson is unable to suit up on Thursday Night. Humphries has 20 receptions for 190 yards this season and will be a key player in opening up the passing game to give Martin and the Bucs run game more breathing room. Janoris Jenkins has 52 tackles and three interceptions on the season.
LB Lavonte David vs. WR Tavon Austin
Austin leads the Rams in catches (41) but his 386 receiving yards is a deceptive number. The speedy receiver also has 39 carries this season for 358 rushing yards, which is second most on the team. His 9.2 yards per carry is a full 2.6 yards more than the next highest player (min. 35 rushes). Whether Austin is making moves in the air or ground game, Lavonte David will need another standout performance this week to limit his explosive plays. David is fourth in the NFL with 118 tackles after posting 13 on Sunday.
DT Gerald McCoy vs. RB Todd Gurley
With 975 rushing yards this season, Gurley ranks fourth in the NFL and first among rookies. He has also found the end zone eight times this season. With a number of injuries along the Bucs defensive front, it is important for McCoy to continue working off double-teams to stop the rookie from breaking off big runs up the middle.
DE William Gholston vs. T Rob Havenstein
A week after tallying two sacks against the Atlanta Falcons, Gholston did a good job setting the edge and racking up five solo tackles against the New Orleans Saints. No team in the NFL has allowed fewer sacks this season than the St. Louis Rams, whose QBs have been taken down just 16 times. Pressure from the edge will go a long way in keeping QB Case Keenum uncomfortable in the pocket, which could lead to mistakes and takeaways for the Bucs defense.