Perfect Timing?

November 21 – There's probably never a good time to play the St. Louis Rams, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be catching them at the best time possible. The 8-1 Rams have suffered several key injuries on defense and own the best record in the league. While some might think the desperate Pewter Pirates could take advantage of a wounded and possibly overconfident Rams team, the Buccaneers feel St. Louis will be ready for them on Monday night.

The 8-1 St. Louis Rams have the best record in the National Football League. But they have suffered some casualties of war this season. So, will the wounded Rams come into Monday's night's contest banged up and overconfident or will they be focused on avenging last year's 38-35 Monday night loss in Tampa and kick the Bucs while they are down?

St. Louis has been hit hard with injuries as of late, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Rookie DT Damione Lewis, who was St. Louis' top draft pick this year, was put on the injured reserve on Wednesday. Lewis split time this season with starting DT Bryan Young, but is now sidelined for the season with a foot injury.

Rams DE Leonard Little (knee) and ex-Bucs LB Don Davis (wrist) are both expected to miss six weeks with their injuries while starting LOLB Mark Fields (sprained ankle) and starting SS Adam Archuleta (ankle) are both listed as questionable for Monday night's game against the Buccaneers.

On offense, the Rams are expecting WR Az-Zahir Hakim to miss six weeks with a knee injury and TE Ernie Conwell is listed as questionable for Monday night's game.

Although only two of the injured Rams players are starters (Archuleta, Fields), St. Louis' fourth ranked overall defense is very similar to Tampa Bay's in that they do a lot of rotating to keep their players fresh.

"They're similar to us," said head coach Tony Dungy. "They play a lot of guys and they rotate guys through there and that keeps them fresh and they're able to use their speed. Hopefully, if they don't have quite as much depth, that will help us. I think they'll continue to rotate guys. I know how Lovie (Smith) is and they're not going to throw in the towel because they've lost a couple of guys."

One might think the Rams could easily come into Monday night's contest overconfident. After all, St. Louis does have the best record in the NFL and the 4-5 Buccaneers are by no means threatening them in the NFC standings. But St. Louis only owns a one game lead over the 7-2 San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West Division, which doesn't allow the Rams much room for error in terms of affording to lose a game or two down the stretch.

"I know they want to keep winning," said Dungy. "They want to keep that best record and home field advantage, so I don't think they're going to look at it as they can afford to lose one. We certainly don't look at it that way. I think the stakes are high for both teams."

The Buccaneers are in desperate need of a win on Monday night. Tampa Bay is tied for third place in the NFC Central Division with the 4-5 Minnesota Vikings, but they think there would be no better way to turn their season around than to escape St. Louis with a win.

"I look at this as a tremendous opportunity," said Bucs SS John Lynch. "What better way to spark our season than beat a team that many think are playing better than anyone in the league right now? You enjoy playing against the best and that's where they are right now."


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