Free NFL Pick: Tampa Bay at Baltimore 11-28-2010

November 27, 2010


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Baltimore Ravens

Sunday November 28th, 2010 4:15 PM EST

Line: Baltimore -8


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have turned heads around the league by starting off 7-3. Last week, the Bucs shut out the 49ers at home, winning 21-0. They have won four of their last five games, losing only to the division leading Atlanta Falcons. The Bucs have only lost one game this season on the road, so going into Baltimore should not be seen as a disadvantage.

The 7-3 Baltimore RavensĀ  are undefeated at home. They are on top of the AFC North and in a two team race with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens and every other seven win team in the AFC need to remain focused. 11 wins doesn’t guarantee the playoffs and Baltimore knows their best bet is winning the division outright, starting with a victory over Tampa Bay this weekend.

Keys to the Game:

  • Joe Flacco has 15 touchdowns and two interceptions in his last eight games. Flacco is one of the most mild mannered quarterbacks in the NFL and he has his team firing on all cylinders. While some may say that Flacco is a product of being surrounded with a big physical line and a great run game with Anquan Boldin at wide receiver, Flacco plays a huge part in the success Baltimore has. Baltimore has been known as a team that wins in spite of their quarterback play over the years, so seeing them transition away from that mentality is a good change of pace.
  • Josh Freeman looks the part. He is an athletic quarterback with good down the field accuracy. He is most effective when he is throwing on the run and has turned the Bucs offense into a dynamic passing offense. What is most impressive is Freeman’s ability to perform in clutch situations and on the road. He has one of those comeback/clutch auras some quarterbacks have. While he isn’t Joe Montana or John Elway, he definitely fits the bill in Tampa Bay.
  • The Ravens should do a good job at containing Freeman. Much like the Bucs gameplan against the 49ers, the Ravens will stress quarterback contain. They have the outside linebackers to pursue Freeman on the outside and the push up the middle to completely collapse the pocket. By forcing Freeman to become a pocket passer and then destroying the pocket, the Bucs take away his ability to extend plays, which is a huge blow to the Bucs offense.
  • The Bucs looked fantastic last week against San Francisco. Their big question marks were against the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. They were very aggressive against the 49ers and completely shut down Frank Gore. If they continue to be aggressive, they will see results like they saw last week. They can’t live in fear of the Ravens offense, as sitting back and trying not to allow the big play will be counter productive.

Key Matchup:

Ray Rice Vs. The Bucs front seven

  • Ray Rice couldn’t even get the ball moving against the Panthers last week. Rice has racked up a ton of receiving yards as the check down receiver, but will need to improve on the ground. The Bucs may or may not attack the Ravens like they did against Frank Gore. The Ravens have a better quarterback, so the game plan may pull in the reigns just a big, but Rice needs to return to putting up 100 yards a game every once in a while.
  • He has a big physical offensive line and a wide receiver corp that opens up the run game. He should be able to get back on track, though I expected him to last week and he came up short.

Wrap Up:

The Bucs are on a tear. While they have shown promise throughout the season, they have not beaten a team with a winning record. They also suffered two blowout losses and the way Baltimore is playing, it is easy to see how a blow out could occur. I’m giving Tampa Bay the benefit of the doubt. The Ravens haven’t blown away any good teams this year and I think it will be close, though the Ravens should win.

Free NFL Pick: Tampa Bay +8

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