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Twelve Ravens Thoughts (and a prediction) ahead of Week 8 tilt at Tampa Bay

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

With the Ravens trying to win back-to-back games for the first time all season and improve to 5-3 at Tampa Bay on Thursday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. We’d normally just be getting to the meat of the discussion for a Sunday matchup now, but the Ravens and Buccaneers will meet on Thursday Night Football, which is more an ill-advised obligation than measured competition. Teams do their best, but Thursday games stink. Of course, we still watch them. 

2. Between a crowded injury report and unthinkable back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Carolina, Tampa Bay looks like a total mess, but former Bucs edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t underestimating the 45-year-old Tom Brady. “He’ll figure it out, but hopefully, he won’t figure it out with us.” 

3. Baltimore’s passing game has been moving in the wrong direction since the Week 3 win at New England, but the Buccaneers will be without four of their top six defensive backs. Even with Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman less than 100%, you’d like to think the Ravens can take advantage. 

4. Tampa Bay owns the league’s fifth-highest blitz rate and ninth-highest pressure rate, according to Pro Football Reference. Over the last four weeks, Lamar Jackson ranks 20th in expected points added on dropbacks against the blitz, according to Sharp Football. Is there sufficient time to be ready for Todd Bowles’ defense?

5. Social media posts have hinted at DeSean Jackson making his Ravens debut against one of his old teams, which makes sense with Bateman still dealing with lingering effects of a foot injury. Even at age 35, the three-time Pro Bowl wideout can still run, so we’ll see how he looks. 

6. John Harbaugh predictably wouldn’t answer whether Tyus Bowser would be available Thursday, but he seems like a decent bet to make his season debut. David Ojabo wasn’t on the practice field during Tuesday’s viewing portion, suggesting the rookie’s debut will have to wait at least another week. 

7. While the Ravens’ late-game struggles are no secret, Tampa Bay hasn’t scored a touchdown in the first quarter all season, which seems impossible days before Halloween. Last week aside, Baltimore has started fast in games, which feels more important in a Thursday game figuring to be a grind.

8. The Buccaneers are tied for 27th in red-zone offense and 31st in red-zone defense. The Ravens are 26th in red-zone defense and 12th in red-zone offense, the latter ranking masking a 6-for-14 clip over the last four games. Justin Tucker and Ryan Succop could have busy evenings. 

9. To little surprise with such a toothless ground game, Tampa Bay wide receivers have combined for a league-leading 117 receptions, according to Sharp Football. Meanwhile, the Ravens’ 48 are 31st, ahead of only Chicago (42). Both offenses need more balance.

10. Asked about Lamar Jackson ahead of the second meeting between these two former MVPs, Brady praised his “really unique” skill set and improvisation. “I just think very highly of him. He’s got a great future.” Regardless of Brady’s current circumstances on and off the field, I’m amazed he’s still playing. 

11. Geno Stone is just one member of the Baltimore secondary who’d like to fulfill a dream of picking off the seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, but the third-year safety stressed the importance of remaining disciplined. First-round rookie Kyle Hamilton wasn’t even born yet when Brady was drafted. 

(Geno Stone meets with media following Tuesday’s practice in Owings Mills.)

12. Thursday and the Monday trip to New Orleans feel pivotal for the Ravens to start showing progress in areas that have been lacking over their 4-3 start. Especially with the bye approaching, this is the time period when a change — subtle or significant — could be more easily made if necessary. 

Prediction: Entering the season, a Thursday road game against a projected Super Bowl contender is one you very likely would have marked as a loss for the Ravens, but the Buccaneers are dealing with a number of injuries and coming off consecutive poor performances. That said, Baltimore came within a couple penalty calls going the other way of blowing another fourth-quarter lead, averaged a season-low 4.0 yards per play, and gave up 6.0 yards per play — their worst mark since Week 3 — against Cleveland at home last Sunday, which would hardly qualify as a breakthrough performance. The Buccaneers have lost four of their last five games and need a win more than the Ravens do at the moment, which is why you worry about Brady finding a way even in the twilight of his career. This game is basically a coin flip for me, but I’ll lean slightly toward a desperate team with a recent championship pedigree playing at home on a short week. Tampa Bay pulls out a 20-19 nail-biter

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