The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a crushing loss to the New Orleans Saints and at this time their season is pretty much over. While it wasn’t a blow out, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were held scoreless in the second half after controlling the entire first half.
With their playoff hopes 99.99% done, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to go on the road for the first time in three weeks and take on one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens are still in the race for a Wild Card spot and even the AFC North where they are only a half game behind the Steelers. The Ravens need this win much more than the Bucs this week. Let’s look at the Ravens and how the Bucs could try and play spoiler in this interconference match-up.
The Baltimore Ravens are coming off a heartbreaking loss on the road to the AFC leading Kansas City Chiefs. They didn’t lose any ground in the division or Wild Card as both the Steelers and Broncos were upset by two of the worst teams in the NFL this season. The Ravens still need to win if they want to make it. They currently a half game behind the Steelers and with three games left they can’t afford to lose.
Their offense has found new life behind the arms and legs of rookie Lamar Jackson and their defense is still in the upper echelon of the league. They have an experienced coaching staff and are playing for their owner who’s retiring at the end of the season. The Ravens can put up points and stop you from scoring so the Buccaneers are in for a challenge this Sunday afternoon. Let’s break down the Ravens offense and figure out why they are clicking at the right time.
The Baltimore Ravens have already announced that Joe Flacco will not start this Sunday against the Buccaneers and the Lamar Jackson reign will continue. Flaccos will be active for the first time in four weeks but the Ravens went 3-1 without him, the sole loss coming from the Chiefs. The Ravens were a 4-5 team with Flacco under center and were not blowing teams away. With Jackson teams have to game plan for his rushing abilities as well as his strong arm. This will be the first time in Flacco’s career that he will not be the starting quarterback. The Buccaneers have their own quarterbacks problems but it looks like the Ravens are in good hands with Jackson under center.
In the past four games the Ravens have ran the ball over 60% of the time, most in the NFL. It’s been working because they are able to control the clock and it helped them win three straight games. They still can pass effectively. While Jackson’s yardage total won’t blow any one away he makes the smart play by tucking and running instead of trying to force it down the field.
Jackson over this stretch is 52/89 passing, 58% completion, 600 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. Again not mind blowing numbers but he makes a difference rushing more than anything else. With 336 yards and two touchdowns, Lamar would be a top ten fantasy running back with those stats alone. The Buccaneers linebackers are going to have to be on high alert Sunday if they want to contain the Ravens quarterback.
The Ravens offensive line has been quietly effective this season, allowing only 26 sacks this year, 8th best in the league, and blocking effectively for the fourth ranked rushing attack in the NFL. The rushing numbers have improved drastically over the past four weeks with Lamar but it’s still a good sign for your team to get good rushing lanes.
Without Lamar Jackson the Ravens ground game has been very effective over the past four weeks as well. As a team they lost their top rusher Alex Collins to injured reserve but they have found another productive back in rookie running back Gus Edwards. In the four games with Lamar under center he out carried Collins even when he was healthy. He’s averaging 19 carries and 95.5 yards per game in that span as well. His lone problem is that he has one catch on the season, so when he’s in the game it’s likely to be a run.
The Ravens have also found success with Kenneth Dixon who’s gotten 29 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the three games he’s played this season. He missed most of the season due to an injury that occurred early but has bounced back with two strong games since then. The Ravens also acquired Ty Montgomery but he has yet to produce many yards on the ground. He has been their most effective receiving back since being acquired.
The biggest issue on the Baltimore Ravens is their lack of quality receivers. They don’t have one big named guy but they have three capable starters. John Brown, Willie Snead, and Michael Crabtree are the trio but none of them have more than 700 yards. Only Brown has more than three touchdowns this season. John Brown leads the team in yards and touchdowns but that is in large part due to him averaging 17.7 yards per catch. On 85 targets he’s only caught 38 of them, a paltry 45%.
Outside of their three receivers they get most of their passing production from a foursome of tight ends. Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams, and rookie Hayden Hurst have combined 69 catches, 801 yards, and four touchdowns. Only Andrews has more than 200 yards but they are all capable of getting the ball if needed. Having four good receiving tight ends could be an issue but the Ravens offense hasn’t utilized them as much with Lamar as they did with Flacco. The Bucs shouldn’t forget about them this week.
The Ravens defense is still one of the best in the league. Ranking first in points per game and second in total yards, this unit is something to be feared. They rank fourth against the run and third against the pass so which ever way you try to attack them they will be able to stop you. In Baltimore the Ravens have not allowed more than 24 points to be scored and opposing teams are averaging 17 points in Maryland.
The Ravens may not have any All-Pro players like they did when they had Ray Lewis and Ed Reed but together they are playing extremely well. CJ Mosley, linebacker, leads the team is tackles with 83. Six different players have an interception while seven different players have a forced fumble. No one on the team is lighting it up rushing the passer but three players, Matthew Judon, Za’Darius Smith, and Terrell Suggs, each have seven sacks. T-Sizzle is an ageless wonder still producing at a high level in his 16th NFL season. The Ravens as a team rank 8th in total sacks.
The biggest problem with the Baltimore defense is they don’t get many turnovers. Each of those players with an interception or forced fumble only has one of them, and the defense has only recovered four of the fumbles. So while the defense is playing at a high level they aren’t taking the ball away as much as they should.
RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS
The Baltimore Ravens have one of the best special teams units in the NFL. With Justin Tucker as their kicker and Sam Koch as their punter they are very productive together when they are on the field. Tucker is one of the most consistent kickers in NFL history. This season he is 26/28, 93%, with a long of 56. His two misses this season weren’t even his fault as they were blocked.
He did miss the first extra point of his career this season, at the worst possible time, to tie the game in the final seconds against New Orleans. But when you make over 200 straight and are one of the best in franchise history people can’t blame him solely on that loss.
Sam Koch is a very productive punter who’s in his 13th NFL season now, all with Baltimore. He’s getting even better with age averaging a career high 47.4 yards per punt with 48% of them inside the 20 yard line. 47.4 yards is fifth highest in the NFL and 24 punts inside the 20 is seventh. The only stat he’s outside the top ten is net yards, 13th, and he’s missing out by only 0.6 yards per punt.
The Ravens almost never make a mistake when they are on the field on fourth down. The best way for the Bucs to win this week is either score early and often, or contain the rushing attack. Both of which most teams have not been able to do in Baltimore. It’s likely going to be a low scoring affair this Sunday, something these Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t used to.