TAMPA, Fla. —
Home-field advantage for the Super Bowl.
Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enjoyed the rare luxury and became the first team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
The Rams thereafter aimed, traded and spent to position themselves to repeat the feat in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium next month.
So, it’s perhaps fitting that for the Rams to take a step toward fulfilling that mandate, they must defeat Tom Brady and the defending-champion Buccaneers in an NFC divisional-round playoff game Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
The winner will play the San Francisco 49ers, a 13-10 winner Saturday over the Green Bay Packers, in the NFC championship game next Sunday for the chance to advance to the Super Bowl at Stan Kroenke’s $5-billion stadium.
The Rams cannot afford to look ahead — or back — when they play the Buccaneers for the second time this season.
The Rams defeated the Buccaneers, 34-24, Sept. 26 at SoFi Stadium.
But coaches and players for both teams minimize the importance of that game.
Because of injuries and other issues, both rosters turned over during the longest season in NFL history.
The Rams, for example, released receiver DeSean Jackson — who caught a 75-yard touchdown pass against the Buccaneers — traded for linebacker Von Miller and signed receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Receiver Robert Woods was among several players lost because of season-ending injuries.