The 3-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the 4-3 Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night in prime-time at Raymond James Stadium. After two humbling losses on the road to the Steelers and Panthers, the Buccaneers are striving for revitalization in front of a sea of red. Kickoff is slated for 8:15 p.m. ET under a national spotlight, as the Bucs continue their trip through the AFC North. The clash features two teams currently tied for the lead in their respective divisions, but after losing four of their last five matchups, the Bucs will be looking to reverse puzzling trends. The Ravens have held a double-digit lead in every game this season yet have failed to close in the second half. With sensational mobile quarterback Lamar Jackson at the helm of Greg Roman's run-centric system, Jackson has compiled more yards on the ground (510) than the Bucs have collectively (451) as a unit in 2022. Meanwhile, the Bucs are trying to gain consistency and continuity on offense. With Tom Brady's return following two seasons that produced a Super Bowl berth and a 13-4 record, expectations were lofty. With roster turnover, notable injuries to the secondary, receiver corps and offensive line, along with personnel shifts, the winning formula will not mirror what it has been in the past. Tampa Bay is now at a crux, in need of a newfound identity. After a week of preparation, here is what Thursday's marquee matchup comes down to:
4 Stats that Matter
- In quarters 1-3 this season, the Ravens have outscored opponents by 66 points. Conversely, Baltimore has been outscored by 46 points in the fourth quarter – the worst fourth-quarter scoring margin in the league per Next Gen Stats.
- In 2022, Lamar Jackson is averaging his highest rush yards per game (72.9) since his MVP season in 2019 (80.4). He is on pace for a career-high 1,239 rush yards in 2022. In addition, Jackson has the most rush yards (187) on third down this season.
- The Buccaneers offense is averaging 17.7 points per game, down significantly from their 2021 average of 30.1. Tampa Bay's offense has yet to establish consistency as a unit, evidenced by the three-point outing against the Panthers in Week Seven.
- Tampa Bay ranks last in the league in rushing, averaging 64.4 yards per game. The Buccaneers have not been able to achieve balance as an offense. Opponents have stifled the run as of late, forcing the Bucs' to be one-dimensional through the air.
3 Lineup Notes
- The Buccaneers will undergo a shuffle on the offensive line. Second-year lineman Nick Leverett will assume the starting job at left guard on Thursday night. Rookie Luke Goedeke, who started the first seven games for the club, will not suit up due to a foot injury. Last week, Leverett alternated at the spot with Goedeke against the Panthers and will make his starting debut against Baltimore. In addition, wide receiver Julio Jones, who has been dealing with a lingering knee injury, will be a game-time decision.
- Tampa Bay's secondary has developed a laundry list of injuries. Antoine Winfield Jr., the team's most dependable defender, suffered a concussion against Carolina and will not play on Thursday night. The hybrid slot corner/safety would have likely played an integral role in limiting Lamar Jackson, but he will not have the chance to play. Cornerbacks Carlton Davis III and Sean Murphy-Bunting have also been ruled out with respective injuries and safety Logan Ryan is on injured reserve with a foot ailment. The Buccaneers will need Jamel Dean, Zyon McCollum, Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal and Dee Delaney to carry the load.
- Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell has been ruled out of Thursday's matchup with an illness. Eight players were listed as questionable for Baltimore, including Mark Andrews, Rashod Bateman, Josh Bynes, Gus Edwards, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Ronnie Stanley and Brandon Stephens. Bynes, a starter at linebacker, is dealing with a quad injury that he tweaked against the Browns last week. Andrews, one of the league's most productive tight ends, has received additional time off this week as the Ravens' coaching staff opted to get their star weapon rejuvenated after he saw extensive action the previous few weeks. Ronnie Stanley told local reporters that he expects to play in the Week Eight contest.
2 Challenges Presented by the Ravens
The most daunting test for the Buccaneers in Week Eight is best summarized in two words: Lamar Jackson. In the hierarchy of dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL, Jackson is in his own class. Defenses cannot simulate his unparalleled speed at the position and must plan to defend Jackson in an evolutionary way. Whether on designed rollouts or impromptu scrambles, Jackson is a threat to break out for a long run on any carry. He thrives in the Ravens' RPO-centric, run-heavy system. Jackson became the first player in NFL history to throw for over 1,500 yards and rush for over 300 yards in a five-game span to begin the 2021 season. In 2022, Jackson handily leads the Ravens in rushing with 510 yards on the ground. He consistently jukes past defenders in the open field with elusiveness and possesses arm talent to throw off-script or beat coverage with ball placement. Jackson is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL and the Bucs will try and contain No. 8 on Thursday night in prime-time.
The Ravens are ranked near the bottom of the league in many statistical defensive categories, including total (23rd, 366.4 ypg), passing defense (26th, 261.3 ypg) and first downs allowed per game (27th, 21.6). Although Baltimore's defense ranks among the middle of the pack in the NFL statistically under first-year coordinator Mike Macdonald, they have star headliners including Patrick Queen, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters – the latter two names are listed as questionable on the injury report. Both were full participants on Wednesday and are seemingly on track to play against Tampa Bay. In 2022, Queen's downhill range and sure tackling remain a bright spot. He is tied for first on the team with 49, including two back-to-back tackles for loss on Kareem Hunt in Week Seven. In the last three games, Queen has 25 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. His read-and-reaction skills, paired with quick change-of-direction make a lethal combination on the gridiron. The Bucs will have to be aware of his closing speed through the A-gap. Both Peters and Humphrey consistently make plays on the ball with a physical play style. Both are proficient in press-man and off-man coverage, fortifying the Ravens' secondary.
1 Key Thought from Tom Brady
His impression of Lamar Jackson:
"He's an amazing player and he challenges defenses. He has a really unique skillset. His ability to improvise, make plays with his legs, extending plays – they do a good job with that offense. They have a good defense, they run the ball extremely well. He's obviously very dangerous with the ball in his hands and they've got some weapons, too, so it's a tough challenge for our defense. We're going to have to play a real complementary game, play tough, hard-nosed football and try to get a win."