Preview: Ravens Take on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in a Thursday Night Showdown
The Baltimore Ravens travel to Tampa Bay to battle the Buccaneers in a Thursday night matchup of division leaders. The Ravens are coming off a close game against the Browns that moved them to 4-3 on the year. While the Buccaneers enter Thursdays contest after a shocking blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers, moving them to 3-4 on the year. Both teams have struggled as of late especially on the offensive side of the ball. With a short week expect another close low scoring affair.
Its no surprise on a short week for teams to have a laundry list of players on the injury report. The Ravens have nine players currently listed on their injury report. Calais Campbell (Illness) has missed practice all week and has already been ruled out for Thursday. Josh Bynes (Quad) and Gus Edwards (Knee) were both limited in practice this week and are currently listed as questionable. Rashod Bateman (Foot), Marlon Humphrey (Hamstring), Marcus Peters (Quad), Ronnie Stanley (Ankle), and Brandon Stephens (Oblique) are listed as questionable but practiced in full on Wednesday. The most watched injury for the Ravens this week is tight end Mark Andrews (Knee). This is the second week Andrews has been on the injury report with a knee injury and while the tight end played last Sunday, he did not practice at all this week and is listed as questionable.
Gus Edwards returned last Sunday for his first game back since tearing his ACL last August. It had been well over a year since Edwards had stepped foot on a football field for a game, but as Sunday showed he didn’t miss a beat. Edwards rushed 16 times for 66 yards and two touchdowns in last Sundays win over the Browns. Edwards was limited in practice this week and while he is listed as questionable its likely more of a precaution not to over use Edwards so soon and risk another injury.
With J.K Dobbins on IR and Kenyan Drake and Justice Hill the only other backs who have received consistent carries, Edwards showed why he is the lead back for this team until Dobbins can return to full health. The Ravens run offense looked the best it had all season last Sunday as the team rushed for 160 total yards. The Ravens are currently fifth in the NFL in rushing averaging 156.3 yards per game. Most of those yards have been attributed to Lamar Jackson’s running ability, but Gus Edwards five yards per carry career average was surely missed and his health and performance on Thursday night will be a key part if the Ravens hope to steal a road victory.
Tom Brady is currently in his 21st season in the NFL and at 45 years old remains one of the top quarterback in the NFL. The Ravens have had some memorable games against Brady when he was a member of the Patriots, including two straight years when the Ravens took on New England and Brady in the AFC championship game. Brady is 6-2 all-time in regular season games against the Ravens having thrown for 2,177 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, while completing just over 60% of his passes.
While Tampa has lacked the offensive firepower that we have been accustomed to seeing since Brady joined the Buccaneers. The lack of production appears to be less on Brady on more on the inability to run the ball effectively. Behind an injury riddled offensive line the Buccaneers rank last in rushing yards per game at 64.4 yards, but rank sixth in passing yards per game with 266.1. Brady currently sits sixth in passing yards with 1,942 yards while also throwing eight touchdowns to just one interception. While Brady is the leader of the Buccaneers offense many of the offensive woes for this team don’t fall squarely on the seven-time Super Bowl champions shoulders. The Ravens defense will need to avoid big plays in the passing game and assert their dominance upfront to make the Buccaneers offense one dimensional.
The Ravens continue to get healthier in key spots with the return of Gus Edwards helping the run game and the defense playing much better as of late, specifically the pass rush. The key on Thursday night will be how the Ravens can stop Tom Brady. The Buccaneers rank 22nd in offensive yards per game averaging 330.6 yards per game, compared to the Ravens 346 yards per game. While its safe to say Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense has been subpar over the last several weeks, its not safe to assume the trend continues. The Buccaneers still have plenty of weapons on offense including running back Leonard Fournette and receiver Mike Evans, and Tom Brady is still the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. The Ravens defense will need to step their game up and continue their dominance by taking control of the game early.
While its noted that the Buccaneers have been poor on offense, so have the Ravens. The lack of big plays in the passing game, and the inability to score touchdowns in the red zone has halted an offense that has the ability to be one of the best in the NFL. The Buccaneers have a stout defense giving up only 308 yards per game. But they will be without several key members in their secondary. Lamar Jackson will need to be more decisive in his decision making and get the ball to his play makers. The ability for the Ravens to control the game through their rushing attack will be a huge key in the game and it will keep Tom Brady off the field and unable to score points.
Thursday night football is known for low scoring affairs, as teams have shorter weeks to prepare for each other and recover from the previous Sundays games. Thursday night games point totals are lower then the NFL league average, and this Thursday should be no different. The Ravens win their second straight game for the first time this season in a low scoring contest, 20-16.
Line: Tampa Bay -1.0
All-Time Record: Baltimore leads series 4-2
Last Meeting: 12/16/2018 Baltimore 20-12