THIS ONE COULD GET REAL UGLY REAL FAST!
Well, it’s the moment of truth. This Tampa Bay Buccaneers team is going through some adversity and we get to see how they respond to it tonight on primetime. Will they step up to the challenge and at least make a game of it or will their ship just continue sinking into the abyss?
These are two teams headed in different directions. The Ravens have won two of their last three games, while the Bucs have lost four of their last five. Lamar Jackson is putting up MVP type numbers, while Tom Brady is not. The Ravens have lost games because their defense collapses late in games, while the Bucs have lost because their offense can’t put points on the board. They are two very different teams.
A few weeks ago, this looked like it was going to be a really fun game to attend. It’s primetime. It’s Thursday Night Football. It’s under the lights at Raymond James Stadium. It might have even been considered a possible Super Bowl matchup preview. But now, not so much. So let’s take a look at these two teams to see what we can expect from tonight’s primetime matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This Baltimore team is better than their record would indicate. They’ve lost 3 games by a total of 11 points including a 4 point loss to the 4-3 Dolphins (42-38), a 3 point loss to the 5-1 Bills (23-20) and a 4 point loss to the 6-1 Giants (24-20). They opened the season with a convincing 24-9 win over the now 5-2 New York Jets. This is a good football team. They come into this game ranked 14th on offense averaging 346 total yards and 26 points per game. They are ranked 23rd in total defense allowing 366 total yards and 23 points per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OFFENSE : QB Lamar Jackson
This Ravens team lives and dies by the run. They are 5th in rushing averaging 156 yards per game on the ground. Jackson is a big part of that. He’s rushed for 510 yards in 7 games this season. That’s more than the Bucs have as a team (451) through 7 games and he’s done it in 82 fewer attempts. He’s also passed for 1,397 yards, 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He’s a legit dual threat quarterback that the Bucs defense will need to keep track of on every single play of this game or he will gash them.
DEFENSE : OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
JPP returns to Tampa where he spent the last 4 seasons. He’s now played in 4 games for the Ravens and has just one sack. However, look for him to try to make a statement in this game.
Oh boy, where do I start with this team. They enter Week 8 having lost two straight and four of their last five. They have now dropped to 22nd in offense averaging just 331 total yards and 18 points per game. Last year, they finished 2nd with 406 total yards and 30 points per game. In 2020, they were 7th with 384 total yards and 31 points per game. See the problem?
The defense is somehow still ranked 7th allowing just 308 total yards and 18 points per game and they’ll have their work cut out for them tonight. The Bucs once top ranked run defense has fallen to 17th giving up 118 yards per game and they’ll be trying to stop a Ravens rushing attack from running for 150+ yards in their seventh straight game.
The Bucs are trying to avoid three consecutive losses, which hasn’t happened in 20 years. They’re also trying to avoid their fifth loss in six games, which has NEVER happened to Tom Brady led team in his 23 year career.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OFFENSE : LG Nick Leverett
He gets the start tonight because rookie Luke Goedeke is supposedly injured. Leverett CLEARLY outplayed Goedeke last week in Carolina and I think he’ll earn the starting job for the rest of the season tonight.
DEFENSE : CB Zyon McCollum
With a ton of injuries in the secondary, the rookie corner gets the start tonight opposite Jamel Dean. He played a lot last week against the Panthers, but didn’t play particularly well. Hopefully, he can bounce back tonight against the lackluster passing attack of the Ravens.
1. Devin White vs Lamar Jackson
If the Bucs want a chance to win this game, then they have to stop Lamar Jackson from being a dual threat. They have to make him one dimensional. A big chunk of that responsibility will fall on Devin White. He’s one of the few players on the Bucs defense that has the speed to match up with Jackson and he’ll have to keep him contained.
2. Mike Evans vs Marcus Peters
Evans had a decent game last week, but it could’ve been a lot better had he caught that long touchdown pass on their first drive. He feels responsible for the loss last week and he’ll look to bounce back and do everything he can to get a win tonight against the Ravens. He’ll have a tough matchup tonight versus Peters who is one of the best cover corners in football.
3. Donovan Smith vs Jason Pierre-Paul
They used to go at each other in practice every day, but this will be different. JPP will be on a mission tonight. He’ll want to prove that the Bucs made a mistake by not bringing him back. He’ll want to dominate Smith in this game and he probably will. Smith is coming off of arguably his worst game of the season last week, so hopefully he wants to redeem himself from that performance by playing well tonight.
Already down S Logan Ryan in the secondary, the Bucs will now be without S Antoine Winfield Jr (concussion), CB Carlton Davis III (hip) and CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad) for this game. They will also be playing without LG Luke Goedeke (foot), TE Cam Brate (neck) and WR Russell Gage (hamstring). DT Akiem Hicks (foot) and WR Julio Jones (knee) are listed as “QUESTIONABLE” and will both be gametime decisions.
The only player officially ruled “OUT” for the Ravens is DE Calais Campbell (illness). However, they have a number of players listed as “QUESTIONABLE” including TE Mark Andrews (knee), WR Rashod Bateman (foot), LB Josh Bynes (quad), RB Gus Edwards (knee), OT Ronnie Stanley (ankle), CB Brandon Stephens (oblique), CB Marcus Peters (quad) and CB Marlon Humphrey (hamstring).
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. LIMIT LAMAR!
I said it earlier, if the Bucs want a chance to even compete in this game they have to make Lamar Jackson one dimensional. Make him throw the football. Make him earn it. That’s the only shot they have in this one.
2. WIN THE TRENCHES!
They haven’t done this in weeks. They’ve been getting beat up on both sides of the football at the line of scrimmage, especially these last two weeks. It needs to stop tonight.
3. RULE THE REDZONE!
The Bucs barely even sniffed the redzone last week in Carolina. The one trip they made there ended up in a field goal, despite running 7 straight plays inside the Panthers 15-yard line. It’s been a problem all season, settling for 3 points instead of 7 points, but it needs to stop tonight. They won’t beat Baltimore kicking field goals.
ODDS & ENDS
Ravens +1.5 and Over/Under is 45 points
As much as it pains me to do it, I have to pick the Ravens in this game. Until the Bucs can prove to me that they can start playing good football on both sides, on a consistent basis, I can’t in good conscience pick them to win another game. This one probably gets out of hand early on and is over by halftime. Ravens win.
Ravens 30 Bucs 13
THE WRAP UP
I have all but lost faith in the Bucs at this point. Last week was a gimme win by NFL standards and they couldn’t pull it off. Not even close. IF (and it’s a big if) they can somehow get their shit together by tonight and pull out a win, then maybe I’ll allow myself to start believing in this team again. But it’s tough to do it after how they’ve played for the last 10 quarters. Ever since halftime of the Atlanta game, this has been a different team. They’ve been playing uninspired football for two and a half games. They need to dig deep tonight. They need to give Bucs fans something, anything to grab onto to regain some hope for this season.
They may be in first place in the NFC South right now, but so what. What’s that mean? So they will win the division this season, possibly with a losing record, and make the playoffs. What then? Who cares if they end up winning the worst division in football and making the playoffs if they just get routed in the first round? Just because a team makes the playoffs, it doesn’t make them a playoff team. The Bucs need to start playing like they deserve to be in the playoffs. When that happens, then I’ll start getting excited about them being in first place. Hopefully, that starts tonight against the Ravens. That’s why this time, I’m not putting the Ravens ON THE CLOCK. This week, it’s on the Bucs. And that’s why the last thing I’m going to say right now is…