Bucs-Ravens: Staff predictions for Sunday’s game in Baltimore

Here's the Times' Bucs coverage team's predictions for the Tampa Bay-Baltimore Game Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Bucs, Gerald McCoy (93) and Jason Pierre-Paul (90) will face the Baltimore Ravens Sunday in Baltimore. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
The Bucs, Gerald McCoy (93) and Jason Pierre-Paul (90) will face the Baltimore Ravens Sunday in Baltimore. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published December 14 2018

Here's the Times' Bucs coverage team's predictions for Tampa Bay's 1 p.m. game Sunday at the Baltimore Ravens:

Action Jackson

Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer: The Bucs did not play well on offense last week against a very good New Orleans defense. The Ravens D may be better and it is helped by an offense that is running the football for more than 200 yards per game. Rookie Lamar Jackson gets the start over a healthy Joe Flacco and he puts a lot of pressure on the defense. Jackson is 3-1 as a starter with an OT loss last week to the Chiefs. No shame there. They will get back on track against a Bucs defense that will play too many snaps again. Prediction: Baltimore 28-20.

Season on the brink

Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer: The Bucs defense will have to be disciplined, and Tampa Bay's defense hasn't played well on the road. Baltimore has one of the best defenses in the league, but it doesn't get many takeaways. If the Bucs continue their recent string of forcing turnovers, they will be in it. Expect rain and cold in Charm City, and another close loss that mathematically ends the Bucs' playoff chances. Prediction: Baltimore 24-21.

‘It was in the bleak December ….’

Tom Jones, columnist: My headline was, of course, an Edgar Allan Poe reference. But it will apply to the Bucs in this one. The Ravens have been a different team the past month. So this will be a mighty test for the Bucs, particularly on the road. If Jameis Winston can continue protecting the football and Tampa Bay can improve the running game just a bit, the Bucs will have a chance. The problem is the Bucs defense might have issues stopping Baltimore and that will be the difference. Prediction: Baltimore 24-20.

The playoff hunt that isn’t rolls on

Martin Fennelly, columnist: The Bucs should be able to hang in there against a Baltimore smarting from letting one slip away in KC, but the Ravens — and Bucs — will find a way. The QB controversy in Baltimore, Jackson over Flacco, won't be that much of a hinderance. More important, the Ravens defense is likely to make a big play to decide this one, with Terrell Suggs and Matt Judon coming off the edges to make the new Jameis look enough like the old Jameis. Prediction: Baltimore 26-20.

This one has the makings of a blowout

Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter: The Bucs aren't coming off just any loss. They're coming off a loss in which they let a win slip away, a loss that effectively ended the season. Seems like an incredible psychological barrier to overcome. And don't they already have enough things to overcome? Real, actual things like, you know, the offensive line? Winston was under pressure on nearly half of his dropbacks against the Saints, and this Ravens defense is even tougher — the toughest the Bucs have faced since they played the Bears in Week 4. Prediction: Baltimore 35-14.

A defensive battle?

Mike Sherman, sports editor: Maybe you've heard about the Bucs' problems against rookie quarterbacks (2-10 in the last 12 games, though they beat the Browns' Baker Mayfield, barely, in October). But Jackson didn't finish last week's game in Kansas City, his style of play gets him hit — a lot — and the Bucs' pass rush has taken it up a notch the last month. Neither offense has been a juggernaut lately, which should keep it close. Prediction: Tampa Bay 17-14.