Everything You Need to Know: Ravens vs. Buccaneers

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Basics

Kickoff: 1 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium
TV: Channel 45 (Baltimore) FOX crew (Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Jennifer Hale)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM) and 98Rock (97.9FM)
Jersey color: Purple

Stakes

With just three games remaining, this is crucial weekend for the Ravens, who hold the No. 6 seed in the AFC. The Ravens have not won the AFC North since 2012, but they enter this weekend trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers by just ½ game. Winning three of their last four games has put the Ravens squarely in the playoff hunt, but they cannot afford a setback by losing at home.

History

Baltimore leads the all-time series, 3-2, including a 48-17 victory at Tampa Bay in 2014, the last time these teams met. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw five touchdown passes in the first half of that game. Four years later, Flacco will be dressed but not start for the first time in his career.

Biggest Storylines

How will Lamar Jackson perform in his first game since being officially named the starting quarterback?

Jackson has made four straight starts, but the aura surrounding this one will be different. Outside factors haven’t bothered Jackson up to this point. The Ravens hope that trend continues with Flacco waiting in the wings and ready to play.

Can the Ravens avoid the dreaded “trap” game?

Baltimore is coming off an emotional loss in Kansas City and faces a tough road test against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16. But the Ravens (7-6) can’t afford to overlook the Buccaneers (5-8), who have the league’s top passing offense averaging 331.4 yards per game. In Week 8, the Ravens fell in Carolina after a similarly painful loss to the Saints the week before.

Will the Ravens’ defense be in takeaway mode?

Tampa Bay has thrown the most interceptions (24) in the NFL. Baltimore only has six interceptions all season, but safety Chuck Clark had one last week, and the Ravens’ defense has looked a step faster since the bye with the offense controlling time of possession. This could be an opportunity for the Ravens to get the takeaway train rolling.

Key Matchups

Ravens secondary vs. WR Mike Evans

Evans has already caught 70 passes for 1,207 yards and five touchdowns, his fifth straight 100-yard season. With his size (6-foot-5, 231 pounds) and strength, he’s a matchup challenge no matter which cornerback the Ravens defend him with.

Ravens rushing attack vs. Tampa Bay defense

The Buccaneers rank 27th overall defensively, and the Ravens’ running game has been gashing opponents. Running back Kenneth Dixon (eight carries, 59 yards) is coming off his best showing of the season, and Gus Edwards has run with force every game. If Baltimore has another 200-yard plus running day, it could be the formula for victory.

Ravens pass rush vs. Jameis Winston

Winston was hit 10 times last week during a loss to the New Orleans Saints, and the Ravens hit Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes 15 times last weekend. Terrell Suggs, Matthew Judon, and Za’Darius Smith all have seven sacks to lead Baltimore, and they would love to increase those numbers at Winston’s expense.

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