Heading into Week 15, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had won four of their last five and it seemed as though Greg Schiano had a chance to survive an 0-8 start. But the San Francisco 49ers brought them crashing back down to reality. At what is now a 4-10 record, Schiano's fate with the Bucs could be sealed with a loss on Sunday to the St. Louis Rams.
While the Bucs were getting bludgeoned to the tune of 33-14, the Rams were handing out a beatdown of their own in a surprise 27-16 win over the New Orleans Saints. A late Drew Brees rally tightened the score a bit towards the end, but the Rams dominated for most of the game, leading 27-3 at one point in the third quarter.
At 6-8, the Rams have no chance at the playoffs, but still have a shot to finish at .500 and build some momentum heading into 2014.
Meet the Rams
The Rams' upset of the Saints was fueled by rookie running back Zac Stacy, who ran for over 100 yards for the third time this season. If it weren't for Eddie Lacy's performance in Green Bay, Stacy would be the most impressive first-year back and a legit contender for Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately for the Rams, they may be without another game-changing rookie in receiver Tavon Austin, who missed the Saints game with an ankle injury. That didn't slow down Kellen Clemens, who was on one of the upswells of his turbulent 2013 Sam Bradford relief campaign.
Defensive end Robert Quinn is making a strong push for Defensive Player of the Year. He had a pair of sacks against New Orleans, giving him the second-highest total in the league with 15. That still hasn't kept the lowly St. Louis secondary from allowing 257 passing yards per game, however, and the defense ranks 21st in overall yardage allowed.
Meet the Bucs
Tampa Bay's winning spurt was fueled by another unheralded running back in Bobby Rainey. Since taking over for an injured Doug Martin in Week 10, Rainey has scored five total touchdowns and averaged 4.3 yards per carry (though he was limited to just 27 rushing yards against the Niners). The Bucs' primary offensive goal over the final two weeks of the season is to determine whether rookie Mike Glennon is the quarterback of the future. He's been relatively solid since relieving Josh Freeman back in September, throwing 17 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
The Buccaneers' defense has been a strength most of the season, but it was bullied by San Francisco. The defense has allowed just 109.6 rushing yards per game on the season, but was burned for 187 last week.
Local Takes: Rams
Brandon Bate at Turf Show Times makes Quinn's case for DPOY:
If you weren't familiar with the name "Robert Quinn" prior to the onset of the 2013 NFL season, you're probably aware at this point that he's become one of the NFL's premier pass rushers. With 15 sacks on the season, Quinn trails only Colts' LB Robert Mathis [16.5] amongst the league's sack leaders. And whether it's blowing by the opposing left tackle with what looks to be relative ease, stripping the ball and returning it for a score, or crawling on his knees fast enough to end the play behind the line of scrimmage, Robert Quinn is getting it done.
Local Takes: Buccaneers
Gur Samuel at Bucs Nation says Glennon has been brilliant at times, but his overall inconsistency should have Tampa Bay making backup plans for the future:
They may have every hope that Glennon can consistently become the quarterback he's shown flashes of being; but waiting for a quarterback to become consistent enough in their fundamentals to be The Answer just because of a few flashes? We've seen that story before. If you decide not to take out insurance on your house, you have nobody to blame but yourself if it catches fire, and you don't have a penny to show for it. If the Bucs do not get some viable insurance for their inconsistent quarterback in case he isn't able to iron out the streakiness of his game in the offseason, then they will have no-one to blame but themselves if the 2014 campaign ends in ashes.
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Credit where credit is due, the Rams offensive line is having a fine season http://t.co/9B86wwIPKj— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) December 16, 2013
Will there be a team QB-desperate enough to gamble a third-round pick on an inconsistent Mike Glennon? It's possible, but I doubt it.— Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) December 17, 2013
@jthom1 - Rams beat writer
Fisher firmly dismisses rumors that he had taken over the Rams defense. In fact he shakes his head over a weekend of crazy rumors.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) December 16, 2013
@RCummingsTBO - Bucs beat writer
Bucs LB Lavonte David is more than just a candidate for the Pro Bowl. He's a candidate for NFL D Player of the Year. http://t.co/8bjZIRSB0f— Roy Cummings (@RCummingsTBO) December 15, 2013
All six experts on SB Nation's panel picked the Rams to beat the Bucs.
The Rams opened as 4½-point favorites at home according to OddsShark.com.
The Buccaneers close the season with a visit to New Orleans to face the Saints, while the Rams travel to the NFC-leading Seattle Seahawks.