(WCMH) — The NFC Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs has arrived and Sunday afternoon the Los Angeles Rams will meet Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Last week both teams had decisive wins. The Buccaneers took down the Eagles 31-15 in the wild card round while the Rams beat the Cardinals 34-11.
The winner of this heavyweight NFC battle will host the San Francisco 49ers in next week’s NFC Championship Game.
The teams have similar records with the Bucs garnering 14 wins and four losses and the Rams totaling 13 wins and five losses. One of the Bucs’ four losses was to the Rams in Week 3, where the defending Super Bowl champions fell 34-24. However, the game was played on the Rams’ home turf at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and this match will take place in Tampa, where the Bucs have only lost one game this season.
Bucs’ quarterback Brady is having another incredible season in a career full of record-breaking performances and awards. He is No. 1 in passing yards this season, 5,316 and lead the NFL in touchdown passes, 43.
NBC’s NFL play-by-play commentator Al Michaels commented on Brady’s longevity and stunning statistics when talking about the upcoming game.
“It was unbelievable a couple of years ago, but at age 44, to be at the top of almost every statistical list, to come off a Super Bowl win, to look like he’s got a really good chance to get back to a Super Bowl, you can’t put anything past Tom,” Michaels said. “I mean, he is just, he’s a freak. It’s as simple as that and always a joy to watch.”
In spite of Brady’s phenomenal performance, injuries have plagued the Buccaneers all season. In Week 15, a hamstring injury sidelined RB Leonard Fournette and a torn ACL was a season-ender for star WR Chris Godwin.
A bizarre incident resulted in receiver Antonio Brown being released from the team after the New York Jets matchup when he stripped off his jersey and left the field in the third quarter.
On the Rams’ side, QB Matthew Stafford has been a game-changer for the team this season. With receivers, Odell Beckham Jr., who was just picked up in November and Cooper Kupp, who leads the NFL in receptions, 145, receiving yards, 1,947 and receiving touchdowns,16, the offense is in good shape.
However, as Michaels points out, even with the support on the field, the season hasn’t been entirely smooth for Stafford.
“I think Matthew is a very confident man,” said Michaels. “He said earlier in the season, he’s confident he has a lot to prove and he does. A lot of what happened in the past he played on teams that weren’t very good, that never had a running game. Now he’s got a running game and early in the season, he was terrific. Then, he had a lot of interceptions and so a few pick-sixes down the stretch, a little bit of inconsistency.”
The Rams defense is also a force to be reckoned with, featuring eight-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Von Miller and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
Donald, Michaels notes, is someone to watch for during Sunday’s game.
“Well anytime the Rams are playing you’re looking for number 99 Aaron Donald the defensive tackle,” Michaels said. “He always seems to be in the backfield. It’ll be easy to spot him he’ll probably be around Brady a lot when, when Tom is in the pocket, which he always is.”
This will be the third time in NFL history the Buccaneers and Rams have met in the postseason. In 1999, the NFC Championship Game sent the winning Rams all the way to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Brady and the Buccaneers are looking to repeat last season, which would mirror the quarterback’s 2003 and 2004 back-to-back Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots. Additionally, Brady won his first Super Bowl with a defeat of the Rams.
Al Michaels will be calling the play-by-play for the Rams-Buccaneers game, in his record 36th season.
Watch on NBC4 starting at 2 p.m. or stream it live at NBCSports.com.