This will be the first of two interviews with opposing bloggers about the upcoming Bucs-Ravens match-up in Baltimore this Sunday. The NFL has chosen to push this game back to 4 o’clock as the game between the two 7-3 teams is arguably the best contest of the weekend. I had the chance to catch up with Matt Sadler from the Baltimore Sports Report yesterday evening and we both answered a few questions about this weekend’s game for one another. You can find my answers here. Now, here’s what Matt had to say.
1.) The Ravens are still sporting a top 10 defense but lately it seems as though the run defense can be exploited a bit more than usual. To what do you owe that development and is it a legitimate concern or more of an anomaly?
At the end of the year, I fully expect the Ravens to sport a top 5 defense. They have faced some tough offenses, but they have also let teams like the Bills beat them up. The Ravens biggest weakness is their cornerbacks. As such, they have to gameplan for that. They have to blitz. They have to help out more.
They also have 2 young linebackers and a couple young lineman. They make mistakes. There is no doubt that these guys are good players, but they often forget to fill gaps or they overrun the play. I suspect things will correct themselves soon enough.
2.) Obviously Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are two hall of fame cornerstones on that Ravens defense, who is a young defensive player whose potential excites Ravens fans but the rest of the league may not have heard about?
Reed and Lewis are the faces of the old guard, but it is Haloti Ngata who is the real stud of the bunch. I could talk about him, but he gets a lot of press.
The unknown player on the defense that I think has shown some spunk is Ladarius Webb. Webb was a 3rd round pick out of Nicholls State, and is proving to be possibly the most consistent cornerback for the Ravens. He gets beat from time to time, but he has speed and size and can be dangerous if he gets the ball in his hands.
3.) Is there any part of the Buccaneers offense that concerns you?
The receiving corps. I’ve never watched a full Bucs game, but I do see them on NFL Red Zone. I’ve seen some acrobatic catches by those guys especially the rookie (Mike) Williams. Kellen Winslow should be able to find some success against the Ravens linebackers. It’s all about how successful the Ravens pass rush can be against the Tampa Bay’s O-Line.
4.) It would appear that the Bucs may be over-matched in this game, knowing what you do about this Ravens team what does Tampa Bay need to do to come up with a win?
It’s the basics. No big turnovers. Slow, steady deliberate offense. Flacco will have his moments of playing well and his moments of playing poorly. Keep the Ravens to Field Goals when they are gelling. Keep the Ravens to 3 and Outs when they suck.
I wouldn’t overplay the Ravens advantage. I think will be closer than you think. I don’t consider this game a given.
5.) The Ravens feature a very balanced offensive attack. What is one thing Baltimore doesn’t do well on offense?
The biggest struggle on the Ravens offense is the inability of Joe Flacco to get through his progressions. Sometimes, it seems like Flacco will automatically dump off to Rice as soon as his sees that his primary receiver isn’t open. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t work, he gets hit and that’s when turnovers happen. Admittedly the O-line has let him down at times. So its hard to always point the finger.
Because the Bucs have a strong secondary, it will be important for the Ravens to establish their running game with force. If they can do that, it should allow Flacco the freedom to get after it.
Matt’s Prediction- Ravens 30, Bucs 26.