By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – It may indeed be true, but the “at least we’re better
than Jacksonville” battle cry probably won’t be too inspiring to the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers’ fan base.
The Bucs enter Week 6 still in search of their first home victory of the 2014
season, which they’ll try to get on Sunday from a visit by the Baltimore
Tampa Bay has allowed an uninspiring 31.2 points per game through five –
better than only the hapless Jaguars – and their total yardage allowed clip of
412.4 yards per week is third-worst in the league. In the last three games, in
fact, the Buccaneers have given up an average of 39 points after they’d
allowed just 39 total through games one and two.
New Orleans beat them, 37-31, last week in overtime after racking up 511 total
yards and erasing an 11-point deficit in the final quarter.
Help is on the way in form of linebacker Mason Foster, who’ll return this week
after a shoulder injury that has kept him out since Week 2 against St. Louis.
“I’ll get a chance to run around and hit people in pads,” Foster said. “I feel
good, so it’s looking good.”
On the offense, it’s the next chapter in the Mike Glennon Era as the second-
year quarterback prepares to make his third straight start in place of veteran
Josh McCown, who’s still hampered by an injured right thumb. The Bucs have
split Glennon’s first two starts while he’s averaged 275.5 yards passing while
throwing four touchdowns against two interceptions.
Baltimore’s pass defense is 27th in the league through five games.
Tampa Bay, however, has been dogged repeatedly by penalties and turnovers.
It has given the ball away 11 times in five weeks (tied for second-most in the
league) and committed 15 penalties for more than 100 yards against the Saints.
In the last three games, the Buccaneers have been flagged 35 times for 273
“We are not where we want to be and our record says that,” Glennon said.
“Maybe we are getting better, but better isn’t good enough if you aren’t
winning. We need to keep working and to keep staying together, and I am sure
those wins will come.”
Wide receiver Mike Evans remains a question mark after a groin injury kept him
out of last week’s game, and he was limited in his participation in
Wednesday’s practice. On the flip side, Baltimore is without cornerback Asa
Jackson, who’s on recallable injured reserve with a sprained toe he suffered
last week against Indianapolis.
Jackson’s absence presumably opens the starting door for Lardarius Webb.
As a whole, the Ravens’ defense is third in the league with just 16 points
allowed per week. But it’s on offense – specifically, on the ground on offense
– where coach John Harbaugh wants to make a mark.
Baltimore gained a season-low 287 total yards in a seven-point loss to the
Colts in Week 5 after running the ball just 15 times. In three victories, the
Ravens have averaged 33 carries and 148 yards.
The run game is churning out 4.69 yards per carry thus far, a quantum leap
from the 2013 average of 3.14 yards that was worst in the league. Avoiding
turnovers is also a key, after Baltimore committed three against Indianapolis.
“I just want to get yards,” Harbaugh said. “Five yards a carry would pretty
much lead the league. To do that, we have to rip off some long runs and let’s
be good with three different guys. That’s what we need to do. So, we’ll roll
those guys in there.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Hey, You Look Familiar
Third-year running back Bobby Rainey has emerged for the Bucs as incumbent
Doug Martin continues to struggle with injuries, and he’ll meet up with some
old friends on the field this week.
Rainey was on the Ravens’ roster, though he never played, as a rookie in 2012.
He’s averaged 4.7 yards and scored once on 47 carries this season, but will be
challenged by a unit that’s eighth-best in the NFL in stopping the run.
Fertile Running Ground
Harbaugh’s mandate for five yards per carry is well-timed, considering the
Buccaneers’ defense and its aforementioned struggles. Tampa Bay has allowed
113 or more rush yards in four of five games, including 144 and 140 in its
last two losses.
Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Bernard Pierce are each averaging 4.4
yards or better per attempt, with five touchdowns scored between them.
Though the record says 1-4, there’s only been one blowout, while the other
three losses have been by a combined 14 points. So the Bucs are clearly close
to turning it around.
Problem is, they’re facing a team in Baltimore that’ll be content to grind and
grind and grind, which is precisely what Tampa Bay has had its hardest time
dealing with. Plus, the Bucs simply don’t score consistently enough.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Ravens 24, Buccaneers 14