Raheem Morris and the Bucs head to Baltimore to meet the Ravens.
No, Raheem Morris your Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not the best team in the NFC.
But the Buccaneers are the most surprising team in the league at 7-3. That’s just one game behind fellow NFC South Division rival Atlanta for top mark in the NFC. The Buccaneers were 3-13 last season, which brought a fourth-place schedule.
Tampa Bay probably isn’t as good as its lofty record having played an easy schedule. Baltimore, however, has to be careful. The Ravens host Tampa Bay Sunday at 1:15 p.m. PT. The Ravens are nine-point favorites with the ‘over/under’ at 41.
The Buccaneers have covered during their last seven road games. Something has to give because the Ravens have won seven in a row at home and 14 of their last 17 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Since 2003, Baltimore is 22-13-2 as home ‘chalk.’ The Ravens are 2-2 against the NFL spread this year laying points at home failing to cover as 12-points favorites against Cleveland in Week 3 and getting past Buffalo in overtime as 12-point ‘chalk’ during Week 7.
The Buccaneers are the youngest team in the NFL and starting seven rookies. This hasn’t prevented them from winning close games.
Tampa Bay has won four games by three points or less. None of Tampa Bay’s victories have been against a team with a winning record. The Buccaneers have been outscored by three points on the season.
The Buccaneers have faced three teams with a winning mark and lost by 25 points to Pittsburgh at home, by 25 to New Orleans at home and by six on the road to Atlanta.
The Ravens also are 7-3. They own victories against the New York Jets and Steelers along with a tough overtime road loss to New England by three.
Baltimore is giving up 17.8 points per game, sixth-best in the NFL. The Ravens rank eighth in total defense and are No. 12 in total offense.
Joe Flacco has an 11-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio in his last five games. Flacco is especially good at home. He has thrown 14 touchdown passes during his past seven home games with no interceptions. Anquan Boldin has caught six touchdown passes in his last eight games.
Ray Rice has put together five consecutive 100-plus total yard games. Tampa Bay ranks 29th in run defense yielding 136.5 yards per game on the ground. The Buccaneers hadn’t generated much of a pass rush either until sacking Troy Smith six times last Sunday in a 21-0 shutout of San Francisco. The Buccaneers were 3 ½-point road favorites. The combined 21 points went ‘under’ the 41-point total.
That impressive Tampa victory should garner Baltimore’s attention even though the Ravens have a huge look-ahead matchup meeting Pittsburgh next week. Tampa Bay also has a big game next Sunday hosting Atlanta.
The Ravens toyed with undermanned Carolina at home last week before winning, 37-13, as 13-point favorites thanks to two interceptions returned for touchdowns during the final five minutes. The combined 50 points went ‘over’ the 37-point total.
Josh Freeman, like Flacco, is becoming one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL. His passer rating of 92.0 is just behind Flacco’s 92.1 mark. Freeman is completing 61 percent of his throws with 14 touchdown passes and five interceptions.
LeGarrette Blount has emerged as a dependable runner for Tampa Bay rushing for 339 yards in his last four games with three touchdowns during this span.
Tampa Bay has a strong pass defense ranking sixth. The Buccaneers have picked off 15 passes, eight by cornerbacks Aquib Talib and Ronde Barber.
The ‘under’ has cashed in 12 of the Buccaneers’ last 17 games. The ‘under’ has cashed in 13 of the Ravens’ past 16 games when they hosted a foe with a winning road mark.
The weather forecast is for a clear day with temperatures in the 30s and six mph winds.