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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Rams battle Tom Brady & Buccaneers for a chance at NFC crown

I’ll virtually guarantee Stafford is going back to Akers in a favorable matchup on Sunday. And surely Akers will relish the chance to make it up to his new signal-caller.

While the sample size is far too small to draw any conclusions, doesn’t it feel like Playoff Cam is a real thing?

Last January in the Wild Card win in Seattle: 176 scrimmage yards, most by a rookie in Rams playoff history, third-most by any Ram.

The following week at Lambeau Field: 96 total yards, his second postseason touchdown, and a scintillating two-point conversion.

Last Monday: 18 touches, 95 scrimmage yards, and a couple of his most dynamic runs negated by penalties.

Throwing more in the pot doesn’t always produce the best outcomes. But in this case, Akers seems to be the key ingredient that brings the whole recipe together.

And here’s my favorite element of Akers’ comeback and this weekend’s divisional game.

The Rams rushed on over 61% of snaps in their triumph over Arizona. That was the highest rate of their season and the fifth-highest clip under McVay, per ESPN.

That was by design, not just a reflection of the Rams salting the game away with a big lead. Their run percentage was actually even higher in the first half.

Perennially, under this regime, Tampa Bay’s been one of the best run defenses in the NFL.

According to Next Gen Stats, the Bucs have allowed the fewest yards per rush and the fewest rushing touchdowns on carries inside the tackles. However, that same defense has allowed the highest rate of handoffs gaining 10-or-more yards outside the tackles this season.

Akers is a complete back. He can hit any gap and execute behind all the blocking schemes. But you feel his explosiveness, his vision, his power out on the perimeter.

If Vita Vea and Tampa’s defense make it muddy between the tackles, then having Akers to stretch them sideline-to-sideline, and unlock the portions of the playbook that are predicated on that outside zone action, is the ideal antidote for this Sunday.

Hoping History Repeats Itself

Hat tip to my old acquaintance in Tampa Bay, Greg Auman, one of the most informative writers with whom I’ve ever had the privilege of rubbing shoulders.

He notes that the only other time the Bucs have had two home playoff games in the same season was 1979, when they beat the Eagles then lost to Rams in NFC Championship Game.

And finally, happy 51st to general manager Les Snead this week and 36th to head coach Sean McVay this coming Monday.

We all know what they want for their birthdays this year … and it ain’t picks.

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