WHERE: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
SPREAD: Bucs by 1.5
WHERE THE RAVENS STAND:: 9-5 Record. The Ravens are in second place behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Central Division.
HEAD COACH: Brian Billick (0-0 vs. Bucs head coach Tony Dungy).
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Matt Cavanaugh
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Marvin Lewis
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Russ Purnell/Bennie Thompson
MATCHUP TO WATCH:. RAVENS MLB RAY LEWIS vs. BUCCANEERS RB WARRICK DUNN: Baltimore has one of the best defenses in the league, but all Tampa Bay's offense needs to do in order to have success against them on Saturday night is look at the game film from the Packers-Ravens game earlier this season. In that game, Green Bay's offense spread Baltimore's defense out by going to a lot of spread formations. By doing that, Green Bay's offense put up 31 points on Baltimore's defense. Look for Bucs offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen to use a lot of three and four wide receiver packages along with one-back sets. Green Bay used this type of strategy on offense, and it basically laid down a blueprint on how to move the ball on Baltimore's defense. Tampa Bay's offense likes the matchup of RB Warrick Dunn vs. Baltimore's linebackers. By using a spread formation, Ravens Pro Bowl MLB Ray Lewis will be forced to move around a lot more, and will make him and the rest of Baltimore's defense susceptible to the pass. Dunn might not have a good game on the ground, but look for him to be a big target in the air against Baltimore. Dunn has 66 receptions for 543 yards and three touchdowns this season.
HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 22nd RUSHING: 30th PASSING: 10th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 7th RUSHING: 13th PASSING: 5th
HOW THE RAVENS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 12th RUSHING: 18th PASSING:13th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 6th RUSHING: 4th PASSING: 16th
TURNOVERS KEY: Tampa Bay is first in the NFC in turnover ratio. The Pewter Pirates have a plus 14 turnover ratio and their defense has come up with 20 interceptions this season. Meanwhile, Baltimore has a minus 9 turnover ratio. The Ravens have 33 turnover in 14 games this season. Both teams thrive off of turnovers, and they will certainly play a big part in Saturday night's outcome.
RIPE FOR THE PICK'N: Baltimore's secondary is the team's Achilles heal and they are ranked 16th in the league. Ravens CB Duane Starks (5-10, 170) has three interceptions this season, but he has been tested by opposing offensive coordinators and wide receivers this season, and he has not passed all of those tests. Starks allowed Steelers WR Plaxico Burress (6-5, 228) to haul in eight passes for 164 yards and one touchdown a few weeks ago. Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson (6-4, 212) brings a lot of size and power to the table, and Starks has struggled against this combination. Look for Bucs QB Brad Johnson to throw to K. Johnson early and often on Saturday night.
SACK BRIGADE: Tampa Bay's defense struggled coming out of the gate in terms of recording sacks. The Bucs recorded just 13 sacks in their first seven games, but have recorded a whopping 23 sacks in their last seven games. Bucs DE Simeon Rice leads Tampa Bay's defense with eight. Tampa Bay has recorded 33 as a unit.
WHEN ELVIS LEAVES THE BUILDING…: Tampa Bay's defense will likely feed off of Ravens QB Elvis Grbac's inconsistencies. Grbac has thrown for 2,668 yards, but has thrown 16 interceptions and 14 touchdowns. Grbac has completed 58 percent of his passes, and Tampa Bay's defense, which has forced 20 interceptions and 10 fumbles, will try to put consistent pressure on Grbac and force him to turn the ball over. If Grbac is provided time to throw, he can be a very effective quarterback.
BUCS MUST CONTAIN WR ISMAIL Ravens WR Qadry Ismail has put up some huge numbers this season, and it will be up to CB Ronde Barber to contain him on Saturday night. Ismail has 69 receptions for 992 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Ismail can be used as a possession receiver as well as a deep threat, and this type of diversity is what makes him a lethal threat. Barber has nine interceptions this season and is in a zone as of late. Barber is keying in on opposing quarterbacks and his extra film study is paying off big-time this season.
BUCS AND RAVENS SOUND OFF ON THEIR UPCOMING OPPONENT
Bucs head coach Tony Dungy on Tampa Bay not being in the playoffs, yet: "I think they have to realize that we are still in the same situation where we are still in must-win games, "said Dungy. "There is a group of teams in the playoffs, and we're not in that group yet."
Dungy on Baltimore's solid run defense: "I know they have been good against the run the past three years," said Dungy. "I see where Dillon had a 100-yard day. I hadn't seen the game, but it probably involved one big run, more than likely. But we'll look at it and we're not going to say we can't run. But I know that most teams that move the ball against them move it against them in the air."
Baltimore S Rod Woodson on the importance of winning Saturday night's game vs. Tampa Bay: "There's no room for error now," said Woodson. " If it's not a time for panic, then it's the time for action, and (the defensive players) are usually the ones who set the tone around here. We have to get back to the attitude we had last year. For whatever reasons, we're not playing with the same recklessness, and we need to get it back."
Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis on his struggling secondary "They're more talented than what they're playing right now," said Lewis. "It's not a product of not wanting to. It's wanting to do too much. That becomes a problem and a focal point. We're trying to make something happen. You have to do your job and allow it to come to you. And when you're in position, you have to make the plays."
FLYNN'S FINAL: If Tampa Bay defeats Baltimore on Saturday night, they won't automatically be in the playoffs, but they would certainly increase their chances of securing the sixth and final seed in the NFC. But downing the Ravens is easier said than done.
Baltimore is 4-3 on the road this season, which is an impressive statistic. In fact, Baltimore has won three-in-a-row on the road, and they need to win a fourth in order to increase their chances of securing a playoff spot in the AFC.
Baltimore's defense is very good, but they're not as dominant as they were last season when they went on to win the Super Bowl. The Ravens secondary is suspect, and the Bucs have the weapons to take advantage of it with WR Keyshawn Johnson and RB Warrick Dunn. But the Bucs will still need to get some sort of running game going. Tampa Bay's best bet will be to pound FB Mike Alstott and run RB Warrick Dunn in spots.
Tampa Bay will need to hold onto the football on offense and take it away on defense. It will be crucial for the Bucs to come out and score early. Tampa Bay has proved they play much better with a lead than they do when trailing, and if the Pewter Pirates can get the fans rocking at Ray-Jay early, leaving Tampa with a win will be a difficult task for the defending Super Bowl Champs.
FLYNN'S PICK: Ravens 16 Bucs 13
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
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