A pair of high-profile rookies square off Thursday night as the St. Louis Rams host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their final home game of the season. St. Louis halted its five-game losing streak last week with a 21-14 triumph over Detroit at the Edward Jones Dome, where it has recorded four of its five wins this campaign.
Todd Gurley led the way for the Rams, running for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries to climb within 25 of joining Eric Dickerson (1983) and Jerome Bettis (1993) as the only rookies in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards. Tampa Bay’s slim playoff hopes took a hit Sunday when it suffered a 24-17 loss to New Orleans at home. The Buccaneers, who haven’t qualified for the postseason since 2007, are two games off the pace in the NFC wild-card race and could officially be eliminated from contention this weekend. Tampa Bay’s disappointing campaign has not deterred quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw for 182 yards versus the Saints to raise his season total to 3,059 – a franchise rookie record.
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened this game as a Pick, but that has moved to -1.5. The total has remained at the opening number of 41.
Bucs – DT Gerald McCoy (Probable, hand), LB Lavonte David (Probable, ankle), DT Akeem Spence (Questionable, ankle), G Logan Mankins (Questionable, undisclosed), DE George Johnson (Questionable, calf), DE Jacquies Smith (Questionable, hamstring), LB Bruce Carter (Questionable, leg), WR Vincent Jackson (Out indefinitely, knee), LB Kwon Alexander (Out for season, suspension), DT Clinton McDonald (I-R, pectoral), WR Louis Murphy (I-R, knee), T.J. Fatinikun (I-R, shoulder), WR Kenny Bell (I-R, hamstring), DE Larry English (I-R, knee).
Rams – RB Todd Gurley (Probable, knee), T Rob Havenstein (Questionable, calf), DE Robert Quinn (Questionable, back), T Andrew Donnal (Questionable, knee), CB Janoris Jenkins (Questionable, concussion), RB Trey Watts (Out for season, suspension), WR Stedman Bailey (I-R, head), S T.J. McDonald (I-R, shoulder), T Jamon Brown (I-R, leg), T Darrell Williams (I-R, wrist), CB E.J. Gaines (I-R, foot), LB Alec Ogletree (I-R, leg), G Rodger Saffold (I-R, shoulder).
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Bucs (+1) + Rams (+5) + home field (-3.0) = Rams +1
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “The Bucs lost SU at home on Sunday, likely dooming their playoff chances. They also lost second leading receiver Vincent Jackson to a potential season ending MCL injury. Last week I wrote about Todd Gurley’s dramatic decline in this spot. Then Gurley stepped up with his best game in months on Sunday, gashing the Lions for 140 yards and two TD’s.” Covers Expert Teddy Covers.
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (6-7 SU, 7-6 ATS, 6-7 O/U): Doug Martin ranks second in the league with 1,214 rushing yards and third in the NFC with 1,413 yards from scrimmage. The 26-year-old has recorded six touchdowns in his last 10 games, including five on the ground. Winston is the third rookie quarterback in league history to eclipse the 3,000-yard mark.
ABOUT THE RAMS (5-8 SU, 5-7-1 ATS, 3-10 O/U): One bright spot for St. Louis this season has been its ability to get to the opposing quarterback. The Rams are second in the NFC with 36 sacks, including 11 by Aaron Donald. The 24-year-old, who is second in the conference in sacks, leads all NFL defensive tackles with 20 since the start of the 2014 campaign.
* Under is 5-0 in the last five meetings.
* Underdog is 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 meetings.
* Buccaneers are 6-14 ATS in their last 20 games in December.
* Rams are 1-5 ATS in their last six Thursday games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Fifty-eight percent of Covers users are backing the Rams.