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After a dominant win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild card round, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers welcome the Los Angeles Rams to Raymond James Stadium for the right to advance to the NFC title game.
Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s divisional-round showdown:
Demons old and new
This year’s playoff run is reminiscent of Tampa Bay’s first trip to the postseason back in 1979, when they beat the Eagles at home before dropping a 9-0 bout to the Rams in the NFC Championship Game at “The Big Sombrero,” Tampa Stadium.
The Rams would once again end Tampa Bay’s bid for a first Super Bowl trip in 1999, on a controversial call that helped them notch an 11-6 win in St. Louis.
More recently, the Rams have beaten Tom Brady and the Bucs in the regular season each of the past two years, including a 34-24 win back in Week 3 of this current campaign.
Much like last year’s divisional matchup against the New Orleans Saints, the Bucs have a chance to get a measure of revenge when it matters most against the Rams this weekend.
NFL playoff predictions: How experts think Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Los Angeles Rams will go
Bucs injuries: Updates on Tristan Wirfs, Ryan Jensen and more
Last week, the Bucs saw the return of key players on defense in Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, sparking a dominant performance against the Eagles.
They’ll be hoping for a similar infusion of reinforcements for the offense this week, especially after ankle injuries to both Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen in Sunday’s game.
Jensen appears more likely to play than Wirfs, though both were on the practice field Friday.
Leonard Fournette continues to practice, but has yet to be activated off injured reserve after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury.
Other important names on the injury report for Bucs fans to watch this weekend are Sean Murphy-Bunting and Ronald Jones II, both of whom have still been limited throughout the week.
Regardless of how Sunday’s game turns out, the Bucs are currently enjoying the most successful run in franchise history.
Between the regular season and playoffs, Tampa Bay has won 29 games over the past two years, by far the best two-season stretch the team has ever experienced.
They’ve won five straight playoff games during that time, which is more than the Dallas Cowboys have won since their last Super Bowl victory in 1996.
Tampa Bay set a new franchise record with 13 regular-season wins this year, and had back-to-back seasons of double-digit wins for just the second time ever.
Much like the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bucs have given their fans two years that will live on forever, and they might not be done yet.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Bucs WR Mike Evans vs. Rams CB Jalen Ramsey
Evans is a future Hall of Famer who dominated the Eagles last week, catching nine passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, despite facing one of the league’s better veteran corners in Darius Slay.
He’ll get another tough matchup this week in Ramsey, who might be the most complete corner in the NFL. This is an all-star showdown, and don’t be surprised if Ramsey follows Evans wherever he lines up Sunday.
Rams DL Aaron Donald vs. Bucs’ interior offensive line
Tampa Bay picked a bad week to be banged up in the trenches on offense, as they prepare to face perhaps the most dominant defensive lineman in the NFL.
Jensen is likely to be less than 100 percent if he does play, and depending on the health of Wirfs and reserve Josh Wells (quad), right guard Alex Cappa might have to slide out to right tackle.
Slowing down Donald is never an easy task, but it will be made harder for Tampa Bay this week thanks to injuries up front.
Bucs’ secondary vs. Rams’ wide receivers
Tampa Bay got big plays from this unit all day long against the Eagles, but this will be a much tougher out, as they’re faced with a dynamic duo of Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday.
Murphy-Bunting’s health will be a factor, but the versatility the Bucs have at safety should help in nickel situations if he can’t go Sunday.
Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean will have to play at the same high level we saw last week, disrupting Kupp and Beckham at the line of scrimmage and giving the pass rush time to get after Matthew Stafford. Expect plenty of safety help over the top, as well.
On paper, the Rams are the better team right now, in large part because they’re the healthier team.
They’ve added key pieces like Beckham Jr. and Von Miller since their Week 3 win over the Bucs, while Tampa Bay has lost the likes of Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, and could be without more.
That said, the Rams will be making the cross-country trip this time around, and they’re doing it on a short week after Monday night’s win over the Arizona Cardinals. They’ll be on grass instead of turf, too.
Tampa Bay’s defense proved last week they can still be dominant when it matters most, while Evans and Rob Gronkowski showed they can make up for what’s missing in terms of pass-catchers.
Also, it’s the playoffs, and the defending champs have the GOAT.
Bucs 27, Rams 24
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Tampa Bay hosts the L.A. Rams at 3 p.m. Sunday in division round game