The reeling Bucs come to Baltimore as the Ravens return licking their wounds following a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Bucs defense enters this game stunned after holding the ever dangerous Saints offense to just three points entering halftime, only to allow 25 unanswered points once Drew Brees and company realized, “Hey, were the Saints!” So what do the Ravens need to do to win this one and keep pace in the AFC playoff race?
Lamar Jackson will continue to frustrate at times while also “wowing” us along the way. John Harbaugh stated this week that Joe Flacco may be available for this game creating another “who will start” conundrum entering week 15, but I am writing this from the perspective of Lamar Jackson after this past weeks “fake news” break that Flacco would be playing against the Chiefs. Lamar Jackson is likely to get the start and will definitely have a great opportunity to put together his best game as a starter when the 27th ranked pass defense comes to town. The Tampa Bay defense allows a near league worst of 8.4 yards per pass play which could set up quite nicely for the Ravens play calling if they can plan to attack deep and often in this game. The strength of this Ravens offense is most certainly the run game but this is where all of the pieces of a complete offensive game can come together.
The plan of attack offensively, is to obviously keep the rush attack going. Kenneth Dixon has come on strong since being activated to the roster and is punishing defenders trying to tackle him. The triple threat of Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon and Lamar Jackson should give the Bucs plenty to handle. The meat of the Bucs defensive line is tackle Gerald McCoy, Beau Allen and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul which sounds impressive, but they have allowed a generous 4.8 yards per carry this season and rank 20th against the run. The Ravens would be wise to pound the run as they did in Kansas City, but build a bit more off of that run success with play action. The play action passes do not have to be 30+ yard attempts, but facing a generous Bucs pass defense, the explosive plays are certainly there along with the intermediate passes for receivers to make run-after-catch yards.
There were not too many shot plays in the Chiefs matchup, but I would expect to see more against Tampa Bay. Lamar Jackson still has areas of his game to improve and the most important in my opinion, is the hot route/check plays at the line of scrimmage. Jackson missed a hot route check at the line of scrimmage in Kansas City when the Chiefs defense showed an all out blitz, he had Michael Crabtree outside, man to man, in which should have been his read but he never even looked to right side or threw the ball up for him to make a play on. The reason for the importance of this is because now that Lamar Jackson has tape on himself for other teams, the blitz packages and disguised blitz schemes are going to be thrown a lot more moving forward. He desperately needs to be able to make checks at the line and hit his hot reads to avoid sacks and turnovers. His timing looked a bit better this past week, but his accuracy was a mixed bag. It’s hard to be patient when a possible playoff run is on the horizon, but taking care of the Bucs for week 15 is one step closer in taking this team to the postseason.