Thursday Night Football features a couple of playoff teams from a year ago, as the Baltimore Ravens will travel south to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Ravens narrowly defeated the Cleveland Browns in Week 7, by a final score of 23-20. Things were a little more difficult for Tampa Bay, who were handled on the road by the Carolina Panthers 21-3.
Both franchises are looking to pick up the pace as we approach the halfway point of the season. Here are three keys to the game that we’ll be keeping an eye on.
Mark Andrews’ Health And Involvement
Even though Rashod Bateman’s presence and effectiveness would be a huge plus for Baltimore on Thursday night, the most integral part of the Ravens’ passing game is tight end Mark Andrews. He’s become one of the best tight ends in the league, and teams are treating him like an elite player.
After the Cleveland game, quarterback Lamar Jackson was asked about Andrews’ lack of involvement in that contest. Jackson told the media that the Browns were double teaming Andrews for much of the game, and that the ball had to go elsewhere in those situations. The Ravens only threw the ball 16 times last week, but look for offensive coordinator Greg Roman to scheme ways to get their best pass catcher the ball on Thursday.
Running The Ball And Defending The Rush
While it isn’t always the most appealing part of an NFL game, the Ravens and Buccaneers matchup might come down to whether Tampa Bay can stop Baltimore’s ground game. The Ravens were excited to welcome running back Gus Edwards into the fold last week, and he did not disappoint. Edwards ran for two touchdowns as part of his 16 carry, 66 yard day. Justice Hill also pitched in with 26 yards on the ground.
In Carolina, the Buccaneers had a difficult time containing the Panthers’ rushing attack. This was a surprising development considering Tampa Bay has been strong in that area in the last couple of seasons. Baltimore always wants to establish their presence on the ground, so it will be fun to see which team’s strength will win out on Thursday.
Trust In Cade Otton
Wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin form a superior duo relative to what other teams boast on a weekly basis. Quarterback Tom Brady will continue to pepper these talented players with targets, but what made Tampa Bay special in recent years was their depth. With Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski no longer in the mix, the Bucs have been looking for other players to step up.
One option that seems to be gaining favor with Brady is rookie tight end Cade Otton. In the last several weeks, Brady is looking his way more, including five targets last week in the Panthers game. The 6’5” tight end will not replace Gronkowski’s production overnight, but the big-bodied player has shown that he can take some pressure off of his teammates.