Game Scout: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) At Baltimore Ravens (7-6)
SERIES HISTORY: 6th regular-season meeting. Ravens lead series, 3-2. Baltimore has won both games under head coach John Harbaugh and three straight in the series. The Ravens won the last meeting 48-17 in 2014 at Raymond James Stadium.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Baltimore's running attack has risen from 22nd to fourth in the league in the past four weeks with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson as the starter. Jackson led the Ravens to victories over the Bengals, Raiders and Falcons before an overtime loss to Kansas City last week. The Ravens showed their grinding, ball-control offense can work against high-powered teams. As a result, Baltimore will look to set the tone by running the ball once again against Tampa Bay, which allows 119.4 yards rushing per game. Tampa Bay does have a revamped pass rush with nine sacks in the last five games.
The Ravens will have to contend with a top-tier offense for the second straight week. The Buccaneers are ranked second in the league with 437.5 yards per game. The Buccaneers own the league's top passing offense, so the Ravens secondary will have to avoid some of the big plays that have hampered them this season. However, Tampa Bay has struggled to protect the ball and are ranked 31st with a minus-17 turnover differential. The Buccaneers have not received much from their running attack -- ranked 27th with 98.1 yards per game -- so that also plays to the favor of the Ravens.
While Jackson brings another element to Baltimore's offense that few teams have, Tampa Bay's defense is accustomed to playing twice a year against Carolina's Cam Newton. Although not as fast, Newton adds a running dimension that puts pressure on the defense, particularly on the perimeter. The only way for the Bucs to win is to rattle Jackson and turn him into a passer. He's still a rookie quarterback and rookies can make mistakes.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
--OUT: S Justin Evans (toe), WR DeSean Jackson (thumb)
--QUESTIONABLE: DT Beau Allen (wrist), CB Carlton Davis (knee), T Demar Dotson (knee), S Isaiah Johnson (concussion), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee, hip), LB Adarius Taylor (not injury related)
--DOUBTFUL: G Alex Lewis (shoulder)
--QUESTIONABLE: QB Joe Flacco (right hip), CB Marlon Humphrey (groin), S Tony Jefferson (ankle), LB/DB Anthony Levine (ankle), LB Tim Williams (ankle), CB Tavon Young (groin)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Ravens RBs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon vs. Buccaneers DL. The Ravens have run for more than 200 yards in three of the last four games. Edwards has taken over the starting role and had two consecutive 100-yard performances before finishing with 82 yards against the Falcons and 67 yards against the Chiefs. Dixon, who was activated from injured reserve two weeks ago, has also been a boost. The Buccaneers are allowing 119.4 yards rushing per game.
--Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs vs. Buccaneers LT Donovan Smith. Suggs still is a pass-rushing force with seven sacks this season. He will go against Smith, who struggled in the last game against the Saints as Jameis Winston was sacked four times and hit on 10 other occasions.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Buccaneers C Ryan Jensen. He returns to play his former team Sunday, but he hasn't had the kind of year expected by Tampa Bay. Jensen leads the team with nine penalties for 100 yards, including four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Last Sunday, after amassing 25 yards in penalties in one series, he got into a sideline spat with QB Jameis Winston.
FAST FACTS: BUCCANEERS QB JAMEIS WINSTON aims for his 5th in row with 2+ TD passes. Has 110+ rating in 3 of his past 4. ... RB PEYTON BARBER has career-high 677 rush yards & 4 rush TDs this season. Has rush TD in 3 of his past 4. ... WR MIKE EVANS ranks 4th in NFC with 1,207 rec. yards in 2018, his 5th-consecutive season with 1,000+ rec. yards. ... TE CAMERON BRATE had 2 TD catches last week, his 3rd-career multi-TD game. Has 3 TDs in his past 3. Since 2016, ranks 2nd among NFL TEs with 20 rec. TDs. ... DE JASON PIERRE-PAUL had 8 tackles & FR last week. Has 3.5 sacks & FR in his past 4. ... DE CARL NASSIB had sack & FF in Week 14. Has 6.5 sacks & 2 FFs in his past 8. ... LB LAVONTE DAVID led team with 10 tackles last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with 10+ tackles. Since entering league in 2012, is only player with 850+ tackles (857) & 15+ FFs (18). ... RAVENS QB LAMAR JACKSON (rookie) completed 13 of 24 (54.2 pct.) for 147 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 100.5 rating & rushed for 71 yards last week. Is only QB in NFL history with 70+ rush yards in 4 consecutive games. Is 1 of 3 NFL QBs (JOSH ALLEN & CAM NEWTON) with 450+ rush yards (475) & 3+ rush TDs (3) this season. ... RB GUS EDWARDS (rookie) rushed for 67 yards last week. Since Week 11, ranks 2nd among NFL rookies with 382 rush yards. ... RB KENNETH DIXON had 80 scrimmage yards (59 rush, 21 rec.) & rush TD last week. Has rush TD in 2 of his past 3. ... WR JOHN BROWN had TD catch in Week 14. ... TE MAXX WILLIAMS had rec. TD last week, his 1st TD of 2018 season. Rookie TE MARK ANDREWS leads all rookie TEs with 384 rec. yards & ranks 2nd with 26 catches. ... LB C.J. MOSLEY had 6 tackles & 2 TFL last week. Has 3 TFL in his past 2. ... LB TERRELL is 1 of 3 in NFL with 7+ sacks (7) & 5+ PD (6) this season. ... S CHUCK CLARK recorded 1st-career INT last week.
PREDICTION: Baltimore will continue to grind away behind Jackson and the running game. Adverse weather conditions should adversely affect Tampa Bay.
OUR PICK: Ravens, 23-19