Thursday Night Football Preview: Brady, Bucs look to get back on track against Jackson, Ravens

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Don Wright/AP/Shutterstock (13469788di) Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) gives signals at the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh Buccaneers Steelers Football, Pittsburgh, United States – 16 Oct 2022

Thursday Night Football Preview: Brady, Bucs look to get back on track against Jackson, Ravens

Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)

Time/TV: 7:15pm CT/Prime Video

Tom Brady’s return to the NFL after briefly announcing his retirement this past offseason has been a bit of a mess, to put it lightly. The Bucs have lost four of their last five since getting off to a 2-1 start and have scored more than 21 points just once all season. They’re  3-4 heading into Week 8, but more notably, they have dropped two straight games as massive favorites to the Steelers and Panthers, each of whom picked up only their second win of the season against the Bucs. The loss to Carolina this past Sunday was particularly jarring, a 21-3 blowout that saw Tampa convert just two of 12 third downs and fail to put the ball in the end zone. 

The issues facing Tampa Bay aren’t just on the offensive end, though. Their defense allowed almost seven yards per play to a Carolina offense that entered the game as arguably the worst in the NFL. The Panthers averaged 6.4 yards per carry despite having just traded away Christian McCaffrey, a disturbing sign for a Tampa Bay team lining up against the run-heavy Baltimore Ravens Thursday night. Given the injuries holding Antoine Winfield Jr. and Sean Murphy-Bunting out for the Tampa secondary, they’re certainly not in a position to struggle stopping the run if they want to win games. 

Baltimore enters Thursday night off a divisional win at home against the Browns, a 23-20 triumph that saw them fend off what looked briefly like it was going to be yet another second-half collapse. Baltimore has blown double-digit leads in all three of their losses, which have come by a combined 11 points. Part of the issue for the Ravens has been a failure to finish drives, leading to five field goals inside of 35 yards in just the last three games for Justin Tucker. The Ravens head to Tampa Bay looking for sixty minutes of consistency and are seemingly catching the Bucs while they’re down. The ground attack for the Ravens has been elite, ranking fifth in the NFL – but the offense as a whole faces a few questions heading into Thursday night. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews did not practice Wednesday, meaning other pass catchers may need to step up and help Lamar Jackson. 

When Baltimore has the football, their success will likely hinge on how effectively they can run the football. Gus Edwards’ return from injury last weekend helped make up for the loss of JK Dobbins, as he finished the afternoon with 66 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Lamar Jackson added 59 yards rushing of his own against the Browns and only had to attempt 16 passes in the win. Defensively, they managed to sack Cleveland quarterback Jacoby Brissett five times – but without defensive lineman Calais Campbell this week, they’ll have to work a bit harder to put similar pressure on Tom Brady. 

Brady and Lamar Jackson have been two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in recent years, but both teams have been playing low-scoring games of late. Neither team has played in a game with more than 44 combined points over the last three weeks, setting up what might be more of a defensive struggle than many fans anticipate. Tampa Bay and Baltimore are both teams with Super Bowl aspirations, but each could really use a win Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium. 

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