2012 NFL Week 16 Breakdown: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. St. Louis Rams
Losers of four straight, the Buccaneers have dropped out of the playoff race and play their final home game of the season today. Winners of three out of four St. Louis comes to town unbeaten in their last three road games. With two wins to end the season the Rams could put together their first winning season since 2003. As for Tampa Bay, the team has nose dived because of weakened production from key players.
The Bucs were 6-4 and in control of their playoff destiny before the four straight losses. Josh Freeman had a four game stretch in the middle of the season where he threw for 10 touchdowns without being intercepted, completed 59-percent of his throws, and amassed more than 1,100 passing yards in the process. Over the last four contests the fourth year pro has tallied four scores, been picked off five times, hit on just 51-percent of his passes and thrown for 966 yards. The story has been similar for Tampa rookie RB Doug Martin.
Prior to dropping four in a row Tampa Bay notched four straight victories. Martin led NFL backs and receivers in total yards. During the quartet of wins he averaged 148 yards a game on the ground and added another 44 receiving yards a game. He totaled six touchdowns and averaged more than six yards a carry. In the last four contests Martin has managed 82 total yards a game and 3.3 yards per rush
The Rams put together three straight wins before falling to Minnesota 36-22 last week. Viking RB Adrian Peterson ran wild against St. Louis with 212 yards on 24 carries. The game was tied at seven early in the second quarter when Minnesota scored 23 unanswered points in just over 12 minutes including a Peterson 82 yard TD run and an Everson Griffin interception return for a score. The 23 points allowed in the quarter were more than St. Louis allowed in any of their previous three games.
St. Louis had won three straight thanks in large part to a stingy defense. After yielding nearly 29 points a contest during a five game winless streak, the Rams allowed just 14 points a game in three victories. During the three game winning streak St. Louis was plus-five in turnover margin.
Both teams have already improved upon their win total of last season. A strong finish would go a long way towards entering the off-season with high hopes for 2013. However if Freeman struggles over the final two weeks, the Buccaneers will face a serious question about how he fits into their future plans.