Date and Time: December 16th, 1pm EST
Location: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
Line: Buccaneers +7.5, O/U 46.5
#2 Offense vs. #2 Defense
It’s not often you see a top-tier offense take on a top-tier defense especially this late in the season. The Bucs, despite their record and 31 giveaways, are second in the NFL in total yards behind only the Kansas City Chiefs. Where the Bucs struggle is scoring points. They rank 10th while scoring 25.5 points per game, which is a little upsetting considering how easily at times the team has moved the ball down the field.
The Baltimore Ravens have been known for their defense since their first Super Bowl win back in 2001. 17 years later, not much has changed. They only give up 294 yards per game which is second only to the Bills. The Ravens only give up 18.5 points per game which top the league. Where they lack at is in takeaways. They’re second to last in the NFL with only 10 takeaways all season. It hasn’t haunted them this year so it’s not something to really be concerned about if you’re a Ravens’ fan.
So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object? The answer to that questions just might be answered on Sunday.
The Lamar Jackson Effect
The Ravens started the year 4-5 and their offense was lacking any kind of spark. An injury to long-time starter Joe Flacco opened up a door to the possible future in Baltimore. Rookie Lamar Jackson has taken over the past four weeks and gone 3-1 and gotten the Ravens right into the AFC North title hunt.
Jackson hasn’t been perfect, but his style of play brings a dynamic quality that was lacking with Flacco. He’s still rough around the edges as a thrower but the Ravens have allowed Jackson to play to his strengths, which is making plays with his legs. He leads the team with 471 yards and he’s the only Baltimore runner that has had a carry of over 20 yards.
The Bucs haven’t let up a quarterback rush for 100 yards since 2006 when Michael Vick did it with the Falcons. It will be interesting to see if Jackson, who many have compared to Vick, can challenge that streak.
The key obviously to contain him and make him stay in the pocket. Easier said than done but I think the Bucs have the players to do it. Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib have been solid on the edges but guys like Gerald McCoy and Vita Vea will need to clean up the mess if Jackson is pushed to the inside. Linebacker Lavonte David will have to shoulder the load at the second level due to injuries around him. He’s more than capable though. Jackson versus this revived defensive unit should be an interesting matchup.
After a brutal loss against the Saints last week you’d think the Bucs playoff chances are dead. Essentially they are but there is just the smallest sliver of hope. According to The New York Times playoff simulator, the Bucs have just a 1% chance of making the playoffs. However, there is a viable path for Tampa. They need a number of teams (the Vikings, Redskins, Packers, Panthers, and Eagles) to keep losing but first thing first they need to win out. The first team in their way is the Ravens.
On the other side in the AFC, the Ravens not only have a great chance at making the playoffs (50%) but they’re right in the thick of the AFC North race. The Steelers currently lead the division but a loss to the Raiders last week really put Pittsburgh in a tight spot. With games against the Patriots, Saints and Bengals left its very possible for the Steelers to drop out of the playoffs all together. The Ravens need to take care of business and will have plenty of motivation to give the Bucs their best shot.
Prediction: Ravens def. Bucs 24-20
Both teams should be playing hard, albeit for different reasons perhaps. The Ravens are fighting for playoff positioning while a number of Bucs are fighting for their jobs. I can see the Bucs defense playing hard but Jackson is going to be a chore to contain for four quarters. On offense, they could be manhandled in so many ways. The Ravens will put pressure on Jameis Winston, especially against a deteriorating offensive line. Winston, while not 100 percent his fault, could be in for a multi-turnover game yet again. The Bucs will score but multiple turnovers will tire the defense and allow the Ravens to take advantage to win.
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