The Injury Bug Just Struck the Rams at the Worst Possible Time

Hot off a dominating win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Los Angeles Rams will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the NFC Divisional Round this weekend. The Bucs are a far better opponent than the Cardinals and should offer a more significant challenge.

However, the Rams went all in this past season and should be feeling confident. In just a few months, they added Matthew Stafford, Odell Beckham Jr., and Von Miller to their roster. This is a team built to win now.

The Rams and Buccaneers should have a tough time against each other

The Rams and Buccaneers both coasted to first-round playoff wins. The Rams demolished the Cardinals 34-11 while the Bucs knocked off the Eagles 31-15. Both games were incredibly low-stress.

However, the Divisional Round should be a far greater challenge for each team. Both the Rams and Buccaneers possess elite pass rushes upfront, which spells trouble for Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady. Neither QB is particularly mobile, meaning they’ll have to make lightning-quick reads in the pocket.

The Bucs are slight favorites heading into Sunday’s game (2.5 points), according to CBS Sports. This likely has to do with them being at home. Regardless, 2.5 points is a small margin.

With that said, the line could start drifting more in favor of the Buccaneers as we get closer to kickoff. The injury bug just struck the Rams at the worst possible time, seriously lowering their chances of winning.

Starting LT Andrew Whitworth was just ruled out

The last thing the Rams needed playing against an elite Bucs D-Line was an injury. Yet, that’s exactly what they’re getting.

The Rams just announced starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth won’t be playing on Sunday — a massive blow for LA.

Head coach Sean McVay told reporters in his Friday press conference that Andrew Whitworth is out for the contest.

Whitworth injured his knee and ankle on Los Angeles’ first offensive play during Monday’s victory over the Cardinals. Whitworth came back in the game and ended up playing 30 offensive snaps. But he didn’t play in the second half.

Myles Simmons, Pro Football Talk

It goes without saying, but this is significant. The Buccaneers are going to have a considerable advantage attacking Stafford’s blindside.

Can the Rams overcome this loss?

Rams LT Andrew Whitworth.
Andrew Whitworth | Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The pressure is on 2018 third-round pick Joe Noteboom to fill in for Whitworth on Sunday. He’s made 17 career starts in four seasons, so he’s not entirely void of experience. However, it’s impossible to replicate the anchor that Whitworth is on the left side of the Rams’ O-Line.

Either way, Noteboom needs to have the game of his life in Tampa Bay.

Additionally, Rams HC Sean McVay needs to gameplan around his latest loss. Making sure Noteboom has help, moving Stafford out of the pocket, drawing up quick-developing plays, etc. McVay can’t just ignore the glaring weakness at left tackle come kickoff.

On the other hand, the Bucs would be wise to attack Noteboom early and often. Sending blitzes and extra pass rushers at the left side of the line will force Stafford into tough spots all game long.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

RELATED: Buccaneers OC Byron Leftwich Isn’t Shutting Down Tom Brady Retirement Rumors