It won’t be hard to fill the marquee previewing the Ravens’ “Thursday Night Football” game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both the teams are at the top of their respective divisions. There are Lamar Jackson and Tom Brady. Two of the NFL’s most talented quarterbacks. Big names fill the starting lineup on offense and defense.

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine another three hours of labor on Thursday night. The banged-up Ravens (4-3) are coming off an unimpressive win against the Cleveland Browns. The even more rattled Buccaneers (3-4) have lost four of their last five games. Jackson and Brady have come back to earth somewhat after a hot start. Playoff spots are far from guaranteed, even coming off their disappointing division.

Before a primetime audience, the Ravens have a chance to change the narrative of their season. Here’s what to watch for in their Week 8 matchup.

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1. Through the Ravens’ first three weeks, Jackson was the NFL’s best quarterback against the blitz. His passer rating was near perfect, averaging nearly 12 yards per attempt, six of his 25 completions were for touchdowns and he was sacked just once.

Over the next four weeks of the season, however, Jackson’s production against the blitz was near the bottom of all starting quarterbacks. He continued to avoid sacks (only two were taken), but his passer rating dropped to 60.5, and he threw two touchdowns and two interceptions against five or more pass rushers on his 56 dropbacks. So what’s the difference?

“They’ve been bringing different fire zone blitzes and things like that,” Jackson said Monday, referring to a pressure scheme that typically involves a five-man blitz and six defenders behind them in the zone. Come to coverage. “The big emphasis was the ‘Core 0’ blitz. Now they’re bringing the fire zone blitz. So we just have to be ready for that and just execute. It’s not hard to do.”

After seeing just eight zone blitzes in the Ravens’ first three games — and punishing them for 114 passing yards and five first downs — Jackson has 22 through Week 4. , which came off an unlucky deflection in a Week 4 loss to the Buffalo Bills, and his projected points per dropback is minus-0.14. (EPA is a measure of performance that accounts for situational factors such as down, distance and field position.)

The Buccaneers are one of the NFL’s most blitz-heavy teams, but their pressure packages have been far more effective with man coverage than zone coverage. Pro Bowl safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion) and starting cornerback Carlton Davis III (hip) could make Blazing Jackson a tough proposition, no matter how they get behind him.

2. A knee injury that has limited Ravens running back Mark Andrews could prevent him from bouncing back from his catchless game this week in practice Sunday. So could Lavonte David.

According to Pro Football Focus, Tampa Bay’s star inside linebacker has the best coverage grade in the NFL among players at the position. David has participated in man coverage on 51 pass plays this season and has allowed just two completions on three targets for 11 yards. In 169 snaps in zone coverage, he has allowed 16 completions on 18 targets for 141 yards and a touchdown.

According to Sports Info Solutions, when running a tight end defense this season, David has allowed eight completions on 12 targets for just 59 yards and a touchdown.

3. The Carolina Panthers, who entered Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay with a middle-of-the-pack rushing offense, finished their upset win with 6.4 yards per carry, the most the Buccaneers have allowed. By giving up 173 yards, Carolina may have exposed a significant weakness in their run defense.

Running back D’Onta Foreman’s game-high 60-yard run under center came on a zone concept, as Tampa Bay struggled against the Panthers’ handful of read-option plays. Chubba Hubbard rushed five times for 45 yards on option plays, including a 17-yard touchdown run that torched the Buccaneers’ more aggressive defense, according to SIS.

In its first six games, Tampa Bay defended the read-option run just seven times. The Ravens could double that number on Thursday. They have run 50 read options for 407 yards this season, with Jackson (25 for 313 yards and two touchdowns) being their most dangerous weapon.

Defense

4. The Buccaneers’ rushing game is in shambles. Tampa Bay has the No. 31 rushing offense in the NFL. According to Football Outsiders’ performance measurement, ahead of only the Indianapolis Colts. The Buccaneers are last in the NFL in both yards per game (64.4, below Jackson’s average) and yards per carry (3).

Situationally, Tampa Bay’s struggles are just as damaging. On plays where they only need 1 yard for a first down, they are 11-for-24. According to SIS, on first down runs against light boxes (six or fewer defenders in the box), Leonard Fournette and Chad White have combined for 84 yards on 28 carries (3 per carry).

That struggle, combined with the best pass protection (29th in ESPN’s pass block win rate), has kept Tampa Bay off schedule and out of the end zone. According to Fast Football AnalysisThe Buccaneers have scored a touchdown on 13% of their drives, ahead of only the Pittsburgh Steelers (11.5%) and Denver Broncos (9.9%).

5. Brady’s average time to throw is 2.43 seconds, the fastest in the league. According to the NFL’s Next Gen statistics. One reason for his immediate motivation: The Buccaneers throw a lot of screen passes. He is averaging five attempts per game this season, completing 32 of 35 for 218 yards and a touchdown, according to SIS. When targeting wide receivers and tight ends on screens, Brady was 19-for-20 for 138 yards.

The Ravens’ screen defense has been poor this season. Opposing quarterbacks are 29-for-29 for 187 yards and 14 first downs according to SIS this season, and only Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Joe Flacco of the New York Jets finished with a marginal or negative EPA on screens.

Daniel Jones of the New York Giants (1.19 EPA per attempt), Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills (1.14), Mack Jones of the New England Patriots (0.47) and Toa Tagore of the Miami Dolphins (0.23) all averaged 0.20 EPA per screen pass, efficiency. An elite level of.

6. In 2019, the Buccaneers quickly took outside linebacker Devin White out of LSU with their first-round pick. In 2020, he was named All-Pro. In 2021, he made the Pro Bowl. That April, Tampa Bay exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

Patrick Quinn’s ascent in Baltimore hasn’t come as quickly as his old Tigers teammate, but his progress has been remarkable. The 2020 first-round pick already has career highs in sacks (3 1/2) and is on pace for highs in tackles, tackles for loss, quarterback hits and defensive snaps. According to PFF, over the last three weeks, Quins was ranked as the NFL’s third-best inside linebacker.

“I think he’s getting better,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “He’s just really growing as a player, and he’s been consistent, and now it’s starting to really accelerate. So we want to continue to build on that and expect him to “Will continue to improve. He’s making a difference for us.”

Extra points

7. After their worst special teams game of the season, the Ravens responded in style against Cleveland on Sunday. According to Play index site nflfastR, five special teams plays were worth more than a touchdown in terms of combined EPA: kicker Justin Tucker’s 55-yard field goal, Jordan Stout’s 69- and 62-yard punts, Devin DuVernay’s 46-yard punt return and Inside linebacker Malik Harrison’s block. Kicker Cade York’s late 60-yard field goal attempt.

The Ravens and their top-ranked special teams unit should have another key lead on Thursday. Tampa Bay ranks 24th in special teams efficiency. According to Football Outsiders, one spot behind the Browns. Duvernay, in particular, could feast on the Buccaneers’ kickoff and punt units, ranking No. 31 and 24 in the NFL in efficiency, respectively.

8. The Buccaneers are one of two teams Harbaugh has never lost to, along with the Detroit Lions. He is 3-0 against Tampa Bay with home wins in 2010 (17-10) and 2018 (20-12) and a road win in 2014 (48-17).

The Ravens are also 7-1 when playing “Thursday Night Football” at home, but just 1-5 on the road.

Week 8

Crows in Buccaneers

Thursday, 8:15 p.m

Television: Chaudhary. 2 stream: Amazon Prime

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

line: Crow by 1

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