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Scouting report for Sunday's Ravens-Buccaneers game

RAVENS PASSING GAME: Joe Flacco is healthy enough to play, but rookie Lamar Jackson will remain the starting quarterback. Jackson lost for the first time as a starter Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was typically uneven as a passer, completing 13 of 24 for 147 yards. On the plus side, he got wide receivers Willie Snead IV, Michael Crabtree and John Brown more involved, connecting with them 10 times on a combined 17 targets. The Ravens have fallen to 18th overall in passing yards per game and 26th in yards per attempt.

BUCCANEERS PASSING GAME: Quarterback Jameis Winston had to win his job back from Ryan Fitzpatrick but has started since Week 12 and thrown for six touchdowns against one interception in that three-game span. He regressed in a loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, completing just 18 of 38 passes. Winston throws to one of the best and deepest receiver groups in the NFL. Mike Evans leads the way with 70 catches for 1,207 yards. DeSean Jackson, who’s missed the past two games with a thumb injury, remains one of the league’s most dangerous big-play threats if healthy. Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries have also played well, with 107 catches for 1,337 yards between them. The loss of tight end O.J. Howard (ankle) hurt, because he was breaking out as an NFL star.

EDGE: Buccaneers

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RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens ran for 198 yards against the Chiefs, falling just short of clearing 200 for the fourth straight game. Gus Edwards started in Kansas City, but Kenneth Dixon was the story, carrying eight times for 59 yards and a touchdown in his second game back from injured reserve. Harbaugh said he expects Dixon to continue pushing for a greater role. Jackson is an unparalleled threat as a running quarterback. He’s carried 67 times for 366 yards in four starts, a 1,464-yard pace over a full season. Led by Jackson, the Ravens have soared to fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game.

BUCCANEERS RUNNING GAME: The Buccaneers rely heavily on their passing game and rank just 27th in rushing yards per game and 30th in yards per attempt. Peyton Barber is their leading rusher with 677 yards but has averaged just 3.7 yards per attempt. Winston is a running threat, averaging 30.5 yards per game and 6 yards per attempt.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens rank fourth in the league in run defense and have allowed opponents to average just 3.8 yards per attempt. They haven’t allowed an opponent to rush for 100 yards since Week 9. Linebacker C.J. Mosley leads them with 83 combined tackles, and defensive tackle Brandon Williams has lifted his performance over the past two games.

BUCCANEERS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens get to face another weak run defense. The Buccaneers allow opponents to average 4.8 yards per carry, eighth-worst in the league. They’ve given up at least 100 yards eight games in a row. Veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy remains Tampa Bay’s best run defender. Linebacker Lavonte David leads the Buccaneers with 93 combined tackles, but his partners in the middle — Kwon Alexander and Adarius Taylor — have struggled.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens hit Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes 15 times Sunday, with outside linebackers Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith all delivering strong games. A groin injury limited cornerback Marlon Humphrey against the Chiefs and could bother him going forward. Slot cornerback Tavon Young is in the same boat. With both of them limited, Jimmy Smith played almost every snap and will have to carry a heavy workload going forward. Despite Mahomes’ late-game brilliance, the Ravens still allow the fewest yards per attempt and third-fewest passing yards per game of any defense in the league.

BUCCANEERS PASS DEFENSE: The Buccaneers allow 7.3 yards per attempt, third-worst in the league. McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul (11.5 sacks) remain formidable pass rushers, but cornerbacks Ryan Smith, Brent Grimes and Carlton Davis (who’s missed the past two games with a knee injury) have all been mediocre or worse in coverage. Tampa Bay lost its most talented cornerback, Vernon Hargreaves, to a torn labrum in his shoulder.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Justin Tucker has made 26 of 28 field-goal attempts, with his only misses coming on blocks. Sam Koch is tied for seventh in the league with 24 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Cyrus Jones increased his punt-return average to an impressive 16.1 yards when he broke a 55-yarder to set up a touchdown against the Chiefs.

BUCCANEERS SPECIAL TEAMS: The Buccaneers have struggled here. Cairo Santos replaced Chandler Catanzaro as the team’s kicker in Week 11 and has made three of five attempts. Bryan Anger ranks 27th in net punting average and punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Buccaneers haven’t broken a punt return longer than 16 yards or a kick return longer than 29 yards on the season.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens lost an overtime heartbreaker to the Chiefs but proved they could hang with one of the best teams in the league, on the road, with Jackson at quarterback. They’re in solid position to claim either the AFC North or the second AFC wild-card spot. Harbaugh said they’re proceeding as if they need to win their last three games to pull it off.

BUCCANEERS INTANGIBLES: The Buccaneers fell out of realistic playoff contention with a four-game losing streak in October and November. They’re 1-5 on the road. But they’ve beaten good teams, including the Saints in Week 1, and have won two of their past three, suggesting they’ve hardly quit. Dirk Koetter often appears on lists of NFL coaches on the hot seat.

EDGE: Ravens

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PREDICTION: The Ravens know they can’t afford a lapse after an emotional loss to the Chiefs. The Buccaneers have enough weapons in the passing game to make it uncomfortable, but they’re a team the Ravens should wear down at M&T Bank Stadium. Expect the Ravens to dominate another second half on the way to a 27-17 win.

 

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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