Florida Football Friday: Bucs Travel West to Face Rams in Battle of Unbeatens

by Mike Ferguson

Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Through two weeks of the 2021 NFL season, only seven teams remain undefeated. Two of them will meet on Sunday in Los Angeles.

The reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will travel across the country to take on the Los Angeles Rams. Both teams are off to 2-0 starts and are tied atop their respective divisions.

Thus far, the Buccaneers are the highest-scoring team in the NFL. Led by future Hall of Fame quarter Tom Brady, Tampa Bay has scored 79 points through two games. Brady leads the NFL with nine touchdown passes while tight end Rob Gronkowski leads the league with four touchdown catches.

Around Brandy and “Gronk”, there is no shortage of talent. Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Mike Evans make for arguably the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL.

Defensively, the Rams allowed the fewest points per game last season and will likely finish near the top again this year. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald headlines the defense, but in the secondary, Jalen Ramsey is also one of the league’s best.

Offensively, Los Angeles hopes that veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford will take the team to the next level. A longtime member of the Detroit Lions, Stafford has averaged nearly 300 yards passing per game so far this season and five touchdown tosses.

Darrell Henderson Jr., Robert Woods, Tyler Higbee and Cooper Kupp are along the players to watch at the skill positions. Kupp enters Week 3 leading the NFL with 16 receptions and ranks third with 271 receiving yards.

As is the case with the offense, the Buccaneers are also loaded on defense. Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett are exceptional pass rushers while Levonte David and Devin White are quite the duo at linebacker. Last week, safety Mike Edwards returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns in a 48-25 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

The Rams were actually the last NFC team to beat Tampa Bay last season with a 27-24 victory at Raymond James Stadium on Monday Night Football. Jordan Fuller picked off Brady twice in the victory while Jared Goff threw for 376 yards and three scores for the Los Angeles offense. Sunday’s contest at SoFi Stadium begins at 4:25 p.m. ET and airs on FOX.

Prediction: L.A. Rams 27, Tampa Bay 24

Other Games Across the State

College Football

Florida International (1-2) at Central Michigan (1-2)
Saturday, Sept. 25 at 12 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Saturday’s contest in Mount Pleasant features two teams looking for their first wins over FBS competition. Florida International has not defeated an FBS school since upsetting Miami in November 2019.
Prediction: Central Michigan 27, Florida International 14

Central Connecticut (1-2) at Miami (1-2)
Saturday, Sept. 25 at 12:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)

After a disappointing start, Miami will have a golden opportunity to even its record on Saturday. The Hurricanes’ two losses this season are by an average of 26 points.
Prediction: Miami 55, Central Connecticut 10

Louisville (2-1) at Florida State (0-3)
Saturday, Sept. 25 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Florida State and Louisville seem to be headed in different directions since Week 1. FSU is 0-3 for the first time since 1976 — Bobby Bowden’s first season as head coach — while the Cardinals just scored their biggest win of the season with a thrilling 42-35 victory over UCF.
Prediction: Louisville 34, Florida State 30

Tennessee (2-1) at No. 11 Florida (2-1)
Saturday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Florida fought valiantly at home last week in a 31-29 loss to No. 1 Alabama. Tennessee however, seemed to get a boost when it turned to Hendon Hooker at quarterback. Remarkably, the Gators have won 15 of the last 16 in the series.
Prediction: Florida 38, Tennessee 20

Florida Atlantic (2-1) at Air Force (2-1)
Saturday, Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 2)

Since a season-opening loss to Florida, Florida Atlantic has two easy victories. Quarterback N’Kosi Perry seems to be settling in behind center. This will be the Owls’ first trip to Colorado Springs.
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 31, Air Force 26

South Florida (1-2) at No. 15 BYU (3-0)
Saturday, Sept. 25 at 10:15 p.m. (ESPN2)

South Florida got its first win of the year last week against Florida A&M. Even without Zach Wilson, BYU continues to chug along. The Cougars already own two impressive wins over ranked Pac-12 schools.
Prediction: BYU 34, South Florida 12

NFL

Arizona Cardinals (2-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
Sunday, Sept. 26 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Through two weeks, the Jacksonville Jaguars have arguably been the NFL’s worst team. Meanwhile, Kyle Murray has already thrown seven touchdowns for an explosive Arizona Cardinals’ offense. Head coaches Urban Meyer and Kliff Kingsbury never met in the college ranks.
Prediction: Arizona 34, Jacksonville 22

Miami Dolphins (1-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (2-0)
Sunday, Sept. 26 at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

Jacoby Brissett will make his first start for the Miami Dolphins at quarterback as Tua Tagovailoa nurses a rib injury. The Las Vegas Raiders are one of just two undefeated teams in the AFC. A miraculous pass and a late field goal lifted Miami to a 26-25 victory in last season’s meeting.
Prediction: Las Vegas 24, Miami 16

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

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