Last week’s 34-11 victory over the Arizona Cardinals might have been Matthew Stafford’s first career playoff win, but the Los Angeles Rams quarterback clearly didn’t have any jitters.
He went 13-17 for 202 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and also added a rushing score in the easy victory. To add, three of his four incompletions were drops. In other words, the dude was lights-out.
It was a taste of postseason action for the veteran quarterback, but this week’s tough matchup against Tom Brady and the reigning champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers looms. Back in Week 3 against the Bucs, Stafford went 27-38 for 343 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 34-24 win in Los Angeles, but this will be under the bright lights in a win-or-go-home scenario.
Heading into this matchup, Stafford and the Rams passing offense is in another great spot for a variety of reasons, but mainly because of his dominance against the blitz.
In last weekend’s win over the Cardinals, Stafford was blitzed in 50% of his dropbacks and went 7-9 for 148 yards against the blitz, per Next Gen Stats. On the season, his +89.1 pass EPA (expected points added) against the blitz was the best in the Next Gen Stats era by any quarterback.
It just so happens that the Buccaneers blitzed 40.8% of the time this season, the highest rate in the NFL. To put that into context, they rushed an extra defender 313 times. The next-highest mark was the Dolphins at 268 and then a slew of teams were down in the 210 mark and below. In other words, Todd Bowles’ defense is going to come after quarterbacks, as that’s their defensive identity.
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Stafford is going to be ready for the exotic blitz packages, though.
“They’re bringing corners, they’re bringing safeties, they’re bringing backers, they’re bringing simulated, they’re bringing all sorts of stuff,” Stafford said this week, per USA Today’s Rams Wire. “So, just got to do a great job as (the) quarterback trying to decide what’s coming – either get it picked up or get the ball out of your hand, try to make sure we’re running into favorable looks. It’s a lot on my plate. It’s a lot on the plate of our entire offense. At the same time, we’re excited about the opportunity. Sometimes you play aggressive coordinators. You try to be aggressive right back to them and see what happens.”
When you add in the fact that Tampa Bay’s outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett (knee), inside linebacker Lavonte David (foot) and safety Mike Edwards (elbow) are all banged up and won’t be at 100%, that paints a pretty picture for Stafford’s outlook this week, as does the fact that the Buccaneers’ rushing defense has been the best or close to the best in the NFL in recent years. The Bucs ranked third in the NFL in rushing yardage allowed per game this season (92.7), so don’t expect the Rams to adopt a run-heavy gameplan.
Stafford should be slinging the ball to receivers Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., Van Jefferson, tight end Tyler Higbee and Cam Akers out of the backfield.
As a result, betting over his 280.5 passing yards prop seems logical and if you want to get really frisky, you can head over to PointsBet and create your own Stafford prop. How does over 350 yards sound? Click the button below and bet it risk-free!