Ready for the blitz? Jameis Winston faces tough test in Ravens’ defense - Jenna Laine
Against the Saints, Winston was hit 10 times and sacked four times. “You can’t have your quarterback getting hit that many times,” Koetter said.
It might be a lot worse this week. The Ravens blitzed seven on the first play of scrimmage against 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13, leaving four defensive backs in man coverage with no help deep. Talk about aggressive play.
Baltimore crowds the line of scrimmage and mixes up its coverages often, forcing quarterbacks to guess who is rushing the passer and who is dropping into coverage. Mahomes said he felt “like they used a different coverage every single play.” The Ravens also made it difficult for the Chiefs quarterback to rely on bootlegs and rollouts, which are plays the Bucs incorporate with Winston.
The Ravens’ defensive pressure should mean there will be less emphasis on longer-developing plays for Winston, and more emphasis on shorter, quicker passes, like the screen game with Adam Humphries, and hitting Mike Evans and Cameron Brate underneath. This will help slow down the pass rush. It also will help in case there are hiccups with blocking responsibilities going against a 3-4 team, and if Winston sees some things he’s unsure of downfield. he then can continue to work on being “more decisive” with the football -- a point of emphasis the past few weeks.
Coordinator Martindale should continue to dial up pressure on Sunday when facing a turnover prone quarterback who wants to take shots downfield. The Ravens 38 sacks this season are tied for eighth most in the league.
7 Baltimore Ravens who could be especially important vs. Buccaneers - Aaron Kasinitz
CB Brandon Carr
Ravens cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Tavon Young are battling groin injuries as the team prepares to face one of the most dynamic receiving corps in the NFL. That makes Carr’s durability and versatility even more valuable than usual. Carr can slide into the slot to cover Adam Humphries, defend a bigger outside wide receiver like Mike Evans or pitch in a variety of other facets. The NFL’s defensive iron man — Carr’ started 173 straight games — helps defensive coach sleep easy when injuries arrive, because he’s as dependable as cornerbacks come.
OT Ronnie Stanley
Stanley might see a rotation of edge rushers attack his left tackle spot Sunday, but he’ll try to block Jason Pierre-Paul more than anybody. And that’s not easy. Pierre-Paul has 11.5 sacks during his first season in Tampa and remains one of the speediest defensive ends in the league, which should have Jackson’s attention.
Former Pro Bowler Pierre-Paul is still producing in his ninth professional season. Nonetheless, Ronnie Stanley has always fared better against speed rushers than powerful edge defenders. Crowd noise will also favor the home team.
Ravens Have a Joe Flacco Package, Just in Case - Clifton Brown
Tony Jefferson Returns to Practice on Limited Basis
Veteran starting safety Tony Jefferson is moving closer to a return after missing the past two games (ankle). Jefferson practiced on a limited basis Thursday, his first time on the field since his injury Nov. 15 against the Oakland Raiders.
Left guard Alex Lewis (shoulder) did not practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. James Hurst, who started the Chiefs game in Lewis’ absence, could make his second straight start at left guard.
Rookie Anthony Averett Looks Ready to Handle Increased Playing Time
Fourth-round pick Anthony Averett played 39 snaps against Kansas City on Sunday, his most action of the season. With cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Tavon Young both dealing with groin injuries, Averett rose to the occasion, playing against one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses in a hostile environment.
Tony Jefferson, Anthony Levine and Tavon Young returned to practice Thursday while Marlon Humphrey and Alex Lewis remained sidelined. Knock on wood, the Ravens have been relatively healthy this season.
NFL Week 15 odds, picks: Chargers end losing streak to Chiefs, Patriots over Steelers - Pete Prisco
Tampa Bay at Baltimore (-8)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)
The Ravens will again start Lamar Jackson in this one. His injured ankle needs to be monitored because a big part of his game right now is his mobility. The Bucs have improved on defense and they can score, even against a good Baltimore defense. Even so, I look for the Ravens with playoff motivation to play big here.
Pick: Ravens 27, Bucs 17
The point spread has been bet down to 7.5 in Las Vegas with more than 80-percent of wagers placed on Tampa Bay. The ELO model projects an 8 point Ravens victory.