If the Buccaneers' defense has one weakness, it's their inability to handle power rushing teams. The Ravens, who pride themselves on running the ball up the middle on any team, will need to get Jamal Lewis the ball at least twenty times on Sunday.
Lewis had no holes to run through last week in
Chester Taylor, the Ravens' third down back, should also be given at least five carries to help change things up. If the Ravens can establish the running game early and often,
Another integral key player will be tight end Todd Heap. Last week, Heap had three catches, but they were all in the first half. Heap will get his chances to snag a couple of passes in the middle of the Buccaneers' two deep zone defense, and could find himself matched up with a linebacker numerous times.
Defense: The Ravens' defensive line lost the pivotal battle up front against
More importantly, the Ravens' linebackers cannot miss as many tackles as they did last week. Both Mike Alstott and Michael Pittman are shifty, power rushers that keep their feet moving all the time. They duo will definitely provide a tougher challenge than Lamar Smith did last week, and Smith was able to run for over 80 yards.
The good news for the Ravens is that they should fair much better against the Buccaneers' passing attack. Thus far, the Buccaneers have proven to have a much better run blocking line than they do a pass blocking unit. Last Sunday, the Bucs couldn't handle the Saints' inside pass rush, which was in Brad Johnson's face all day long. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will employ a lot of stunts, loops and six man rushes to try to generate the same type of havoc.
If the Ravens can successfully get to quarterback Brad Johnson, he could make a mistake or two. On the flip side, the Ravens' secondary may not have as tough a matchup against receivers Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius as many are anticipating.
While all three are solid route runners that make plays in the middle of the field through running slants and in routes, they don't have great deep play speed. Brad Johnson rarely looks to throw over the top, so all of his passes will likely be placed in front of the Ravens' corners.
For Johnson to successfully hit on a couple of deep passes, the Ravens' secondary will have to have some kind of breakdown in communication with each other.
Two battles you have to watch:
Keyshawn Johnson versus Chris McAlister: In last year's battle against
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