The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost two games in a row and have now dropped below .500 with a 3-4 record. They still cling to the division lead, but things need to turn around quickly to hang on to it much longer. Luckily, or perhaps not, the Bucs have a quick turn around this week and they host Thursday Night Football.
The Bucs will welcome in the 4-3 Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night. The Ravens have been very competitive this season and could have a much better record if they hadn’t let a few leads get away to teams like the Bills (5-1) and Giants (6-1). Nevertheless, they lead the AFC North and will be a very difficult opponent to beat.
I won’t go as far to say that this is a make or break game for the Bucs, but falling two games under .500 would be bad. Their Super Bowl aspirations seem to be slipping away and now it looks like it will be a battle just to make the playoffs. If they want to keep their heads above water then here’s what they’ll have to do this week vs the Ravens.
Lamar Jackson vs Buccaneers’ Linebackers
You always know it’s going to be a challenge when you go against an MVP caliber quarterback. That’s exactly what the Bucs will have to deal with in Lamar Jackson, who won the MVP award in 2019. However, this is not your typical great quarterback.
Jackson might be the most dynamic running quarterback to ever play the game. He is extremely fast and can break a big run on any given day. Keeping him in the pocket has to be priority one.
This will involve two things. The first is keeping contain at the line of scrimmage. The second is assigning a spy to mirror this explosive running threat.
Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka can’t let Jackson get outside of them. Once he gets around the corner it will just be too hard to stop him. This will mean less pass rush off the edge and more setting the edge.
In the spy role, this seems like a perfect assignment for Devin White. He is one of the few linebackers in this league who might be able to keep pace with Jackson. However, this will involve staying disciplined because one false step can make all the difference.
Mark Andrews vs Buccaneers’ Safeties and Linebackers
Lamar Jackson is more than just a runner. He led the league in touchdown passes in 2019 and can certainly beat opponents with his arm. The man he’ll look to is tight end Mark Andrews.
Andrews is one of the best tight ends in the game today. He’s a threat in all areas of the field and should be the first playmaker the Bucs try to take away. This will be a task easier said than done.
The Buccaneers will be without Logan Ryan, who is on injured reserve, and Antoine Winfield Jr, who’s in concussion protocol. These are the Bucs top two slot defenders and would match up with Andrews. It will be up to Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal and Lavonte David to pick up the slack in this matchup.
Buccaneers’ Offensive Line vs Ravens’ Defensive Line
The Ravens defensive line isn’t outstanding, but it’s not bad either. It’s a blend of young up and comers like Justin Madubuike, Oweh Odafe and Travis Jones. It also has long-time veterans such as Calais Campbell, Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul.
This needs to be a battle that the Bucs win. We saw the offensive line take a step forward last week, particularly Luke Goedeke and Robert Hainsey. They must build on that performance against the Ravens.
This isn’t a battle of talent. In that department Tampa Bay has the advantage here. This will come down to experience and the coaching staff putting their guys in the best situation to thrive.
The Bucs struggles are very real and very concerning. If they couldn’t beat the likes of Pittsburgh and Carolina, then why should we expect a win against Baltimore?
Yes, the Bucs are the more talented team here. However, this is a team that can’t get out of their own way. That starts with coaching and the Ravens have a big advantage in that area.
Ravens – 26
Buccaneers – 20
The Bucs Report/Sports Talk Florida Pregame Show