Though Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes are all but over. There are still three games left for this team to begin building on 2019. The Buccaneers can either fold or play with pride over these final few games. It all starts in Baltimore.
This team collapsed in the second half against New Orleans. The Saints shut out Tampa Bay 25-0 in the second half to secure a 28-14 victory. It didn’t even feel close.
Now, the Bucs defense will face a big test against the Ravens and Lamar Jackson. They haven’t played against a quarterback that is as dynamic on as feet as Jackson. On offense, Jameis Winston needs his front-five to respond after a poor outing last Sunday.
1. Forcing Lamar Jackson to throw the ball
Jackson has been one of the most talked about quarterbacks in the league since taking over as the starter four weeks ago. He’s led Baltimore to three wins in those four games and the only loss was by three to Kansas City in overtime.
The former Louisville star hasn’t surpassed 178 passing yards and has thrown three downs to interceptions during this four game stretch. However, he’s been a nightmare for defenses on the ground. Jackson has carried the ball 11 or more times while gaining at least 67 yards per game in his time as a starter. He’s also scored twice.
Tampa Bay is going to have to put spy on him. The key is to contain him in the pocket and force him to use his arm to make plays.
2. Passing offense
Winston and the offense will need to get back in a rhythm a week after recording just 61 yards in the second half against New Orleans. Winston threw just for just 213 yards with two touchdowns to one interception. His 47.4% completion percentage was his worst so far this season.
Baltimore boasts the No. 4 rushing defense in the league, holding opponents to 87.8 yards per game. With Tampa Bay’s own struggles to run the ball, they’ll have to rely on throwing the ball to open up this game.
3. Offensive line
The Buccaneers offensive line had one of the worst performances of the season against the Saints. They allowed Winston to get sacked four times while committing four penalties as a unit.
The offensive tackles were very disappointing. Veteran Demar Dotson committed three penalties during the contest while Donovan Smith continued to struggle in pass protection. Winston needs his front five to get back on track and keep him upright.
4. Limiting penalties
Tampa Bay has been awful with committing penalties all season and that didn’t change against New Orleans. The Bucs were penalized 10 times for 84 yards in the loss.
On the season they’ve committed 99 total penalties for 815 yards, tied for fifth most in the NFL. Baltimore isn’t much better with 93 total penalties. This game could come down to a costly mistake one way or the other.
5. Winning the kicking battle
In a game that will likely be close, Tampa Bay will need Cairo Santos to put last week behind. The Brazil native missed his first two field goals last week, with one clanging off the uprights, since joining the Bucs against the Saints.
Baltimore has one of the top kickers in the league in Justin Tucker. Tucker has hit 26/28 attempts this season and has hit all four of his tries from 50+ yards.
Santos could put all the woes from last week behind him if he kicks Tampa Bay to a win against the Ravens.