After both of Saturday’s NFL playoff games ended on last-second field goals, what do Sunday’s two Divisional Round games have in store?
In the AFC, the Cincinnati Bengals are waiting to find out their destination for next Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. The Bengals, who booted top seed Tennessee yesterday, will visit the winner of today’s Bills-Chiefs matchup.
In the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers have the same wait, as their NFC Championship Game matchup will be on the road against the Rams-Bucs winner. The 49ers, who knocked out the Packers last night after eliminating the Cowboys last week, are a win away from being the second straight NFC champion to claim the conference title by winning three straight road games.
Last season, the Bucs achieved that feat to earn a home Super Bowl, which they historically won. The same reward won’t await the 49ers if they win the NFC title this season. But they would have a much shorter trip to this year’s Super Bowl location than anyone but the “host” Rams.
At this point of the NFL season, every remaining team is dealing with injury issues. It’s a contact sport with a long season, and injuries are inevitable.
But the availability, absence, and health of certain players can be key to playoff results.
For example, while Ryan Tannehill and questionable decisions might have tripped Tennessee regardless, had Derrick Henry not been coming off of a long injury layoff, he likely would have put a bigger stamp on the Bengals-Titans matchup. Instead, he averaged only 3.1 yards per carry and came up short on two pivotal plays.
Is there any injury news that could impact today’s NFL playoff matchups? The Rams-Bucs matchup is up first this afternoon, so let’s look at some of the major injury concerns for each team.
NFL Injury Report: Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs Sweat on Status of Wirfs, Jensen
When going up against Aaron Donald and the Rams, it is suboptimal to be dinged up along the offensive line. Unfortunately, that is the case for the Bucs.
The defending Super Bowl champions are dealing with injuries to not one, but two of the NFL’s top offensive linemen. First-team All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs and center Ryan Jensen, a Pro Bowl selection this season, both sustained ankle injuries in last week’s wild-card win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Both players were limited in practice over the past week and are listed as questionable for the Rams-Bucs matchup. It’s often safer to err on the side of “probable” than “doubtful” with that status designation, especially at this juncture of the NFL season.
Media and social media reports offer more pessimism about Wirfs than Jensen. Wirfs managed only one more drive, while Jensen was able to finish out the game.
That said, Athletic’s Greg Auman noted that the Bucs did not elevate an offensive lineman to the active roster yesterday, which could be a positive sign for one or both players.
But if Wirfs and Jensen are hobbled or worse yet, one is unable to go, that could be highly detrimental. Donald, Leonard Floyd, and Von Miller lead one of the NFL’s most sack-happy defenses. In the regular season, the Rams were third in the NFL in sacks with 50.
2021 NFL Sack Leaders
- 1. Pittsburgh Steelers – 55
- 2. Minnesota Vikings – 51
- 3. Los Angeles Rams – 50
- 4. Chicago Bears – 49
- t5. Miami Dolphins – 48
- t5. San Francisco 49ers – 48
- 7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 47
In last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams sacked Kyler Murray twice, harassed him into an ugly, ill-advised throw that turned into a pick-six, and didn’t give him the opportunity to beat them with his legs.
In the Rams’ Week 3 win over the Bucs, Donald and Floyd each tallied a sack in a three-sack day for the team.
With questions surrounding Wirfs and Jensen, Von Miller player props are an intriguing option. The Super Bowl 50 MVP had six tackles and a sack against the Cardinals, and his tackles total for today’s matchup sits at 3.5 tackles.
On a positive note for the Bucs, running back Leonard Fournette will play against the Rams. Fournette had been on injured reserve since suffering a hamstring strain in Week 15, but the Bucs get their leading rusher back for this highly anticipated NFL playoff matchup.
With Fournette and Ronald Jones–who will miss today’s game–both out, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Gio Bernard were productive against the Eagles. But the return of “Playoff Lenny” makes the Bucs even better. In addition to compiling 812 yards and eight touchdowns rushing in 14 games, Fournette was a valuable aerial asset for Brady, catching 69 passes for 454 yards and two touchdowns.
Whitworth, Rapp Sidelined for Rams
The Rams have their own injury issue to deal with on the offensive line. Veteran starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth is out against the Bucs with ankle and knee injuries.
He isn’t the only Rams starter who will be absent. Starting safety Taylor Rapp (concussion) will miss his second straight game.
Rapp, who had 94 tackles and four interceptions in the regular season, wasn’t missed as much against the Cardinals with how the rest of the defense performed. But his absence looms much larger against Tom Brady and the Bucs. It goes without saying that the defending champs will be all too keen to fully exploit any advantages they have.
While Rams coach Sean McVay confirmed Friday that Whitworth and Rapp would be out, official injury news for both teams will be released in the hours prior to this afternoon’s kickoff.