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The Baltimore Ravens (7-6) get set to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium with the postseason in sight.
The Ravens are 3-2 all time against the Bucs with a 1-1 record when playing in Baltimore. The last time these two teams met was back in 2014 when the Ravens handed Tampa Bay a 48-17 loss, marking the most points ever scored by the Ravens on the road.
Here's everything you need to know ahead of the Week 15 matchup.
Incase you've been living in a hole the last two days, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced that rookie Lamar Jackson will be starting Sunday and Joe Flacco would be the backup in what appears to be a new era in Baltimore.
Both Flacco and Jackson handled the news with class as the decision wasn't that big of surprise considering Jackson has led the team to three wins in their last four matchups. Harbaugh wouldn't divulge if and how they would utilize Flacco's talents, but alternating between the two throughout the matchup could trip up a lot of defenders. On top of that, the Buccaneers' defense is bottom of the barrel ranking 30th in the league in points (29.5), 27th in yards (387.9), 27th in passing yards (268.5) and 20th in rushing yards (119.4).
Another Defensive Challenge
While their 5-8 record may not show it, the Buccaneers' offense could present a challenge for the Ravens' No. 1 scoring defense. Heading into Week 15, Tampa Bay is ranked 10th in the league in points (25.5), second in yards (430.1), first in passing yards (331.4), but 27th in rushing yards (98.7). Their 4,308 passing yards are the third-most through the first 13 games in NFL history and their 5,591 total yards are the eighth-most through the first 13 games in NFL history.
Wide receiver Mike Evans is currently tied for sixth in the league in receiving touchdowns over the last two seasons at 22, while Cameron Brate is tied for third in the league in receiving touchdowns among tight ends in 2018 at six. The Bucs also have seven different players to score at least five touchdowns so far this season making them just the fifth team to accomplish that .
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson has missed the last two games as he deals with a left thumb injury sustained in the season opener and re-injured against the New York Giants in Week 11. The injury has left him unable to squeeze a football with that hand, so don't expect D-Jack on the field Sunday.
Postseason In Sight
The Ravens have found themselves in this situation many times before. With three games to play, the Ravens sit in the sixth and final AFC playoff spot and half a game back of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North title.
In typical fashion, it's going to come down to the wire. The Ravens are in a four-way race with the Colts, Titans and Dolphins for the final playoff spot. A win Sunday against the Buccaneers is a must as they head to Los Angeles in Week 16 to face the Chargers, who just handed the Kansas City Chiefs a rare loss on Thursday Night Football and the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.
Claiming the division and playing January football for the first time in three seasons is on the horizon, and with two quarterbacks to use at their disposal the Ravens are truly in control of writing their own ending.
Click here to see the Ravens-Bucs injury report.
Ravens vs. Buccaneers Week 15 How to Watch:
Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What: Week 15 regular season
When: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, 1:00 p.m. ET
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md
TV Channel: FOX
Live Stream: Watch Now with fuboTV - Try free trial
Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 and 98Rock
Weather: 47 degrees, mostly cloudy with some rain
Ravens 2018 Regular Season Schedule:
Week 1: Sun., 9/9. Ravens vs. Bills. Win, 47-3 (1-0)
Week 2: Thur., 9/13 Ravens at Bengals. Loss, 34-23 (1-1)
Week 3: Sun., 9/23 Ravens vs. Broncos. Win, 27-14 (2-1)
Week 4: Sun., 9/30 Ravens at Steelers. Win, 26-14 (3-1)
Week 5: Sun., 10/7 Ravens at Browns. Loss, 12-9 (3-2)
Week 6: Sun., 10/14 Ravens at Titans. Win, 21-0 (4-2)
Week 7: Sun., 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m. Loss, 24-23 (4-3)
Week 8: Sun., 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m. Loss 36-21 (4-4)
Week 9: Sun., 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m. Loss 23-16 (4-5)
Week 10: BYE week
Week 11: Sun., 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m. Win 24-21 (5-5)
Week 12: Sun., 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m. Win 34-17 (6-5)
Week 13: Sun., 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m. Win 26-16 (7-5)
Week 15: Sun., 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.
Week 16: Sat., 12/22 @ Chargers, 8:20 p.m. ET
Week 17: Sun., 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.
The Redskins defense clicked earlier this season when the team seemed playoff-bound. This same group with scant personnel changes then started getting clocked starting with a Week 9 loss against the Falcons.
Everyone began wondering why.
The most notable switch, HaHa Clinton-Dix replacing Montae Nicholson at safety, received additional scrutiny in the loss against the Giants on Sunday.
Through seven games, Washington won five of seven games and allowed 322 yards per game. The Redskins have since lost five of six including four in a row while surrendering an average of 426 yards. The primary struggles exist on the ground, though the Redskins allowed seven touchdown passes over the last three games.
The start of the current six-game stretch coincided with the addition of Clinton-Dix. Washington traded a 2019 fourth-round pick to Green Bay on Oct. 30 for the one-time Pro Bowl safety. Clinton-Dix, 25, played 100 percent of the defensive snaps over the last five games. Despite the heavy workload, an adjustment period remains.
"I think he's finding his way, really,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said this week of Clinton-Dix.
His arrival sent Nicholson to the bench. Last May Gruden praised the 2017 fourth-round selection turned starter during his rookie season. “Montae I think is really an important piece,” Gruden said at the NFL Combine. “Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on [offense], Montae is on defense.”
After playing all but 440 of 445 defensive snaps during the initial seven games this season, the second-year safety played on 26 snaps after Clinton-Dix’s arrival. He hasn’t taken the field defensively for the last three games.
NBC Sports Washington sought an explanation for the safety swap from NFL analytics website Pro Football Focus.
“HaHa has actually been a reliable tackler when he actually makes contact,” PFF analyst Trey Cunningham said via email. “He's saved several [touchdowns] with tackles where others were beat. Of course, the most notable gaffes for him have come when he's taken bad angles as the last line of defense and not even been able to attempt a tackle."
Cunningham cited both Amari Cooper's long catch-and-runs touchdowns in the Cowboys Week 12 win over the Redskins and Giants running back Saquon Barkley's 78 yard TD run last week as examples. Clinton-Dix was blocked during two touchdowns against Atlanta and knocked down on Darren Sproles’ touchdown run in Week 13 against the Eagles, according to Cunningham.
Tackling concerns and "average" speed were considered issues during Clinton-Dix's time with the Packers, though PFF rated him among the top safeties in coverage at the time of the trade.
Yet Cunningham noted Clinton-Dix provided pop with a forced fumble against Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. He also reasons why the Redskins may have felt compelled to seek safety help in the first place.
“Aside from health concerns with Montae Nicholson, his biggest flaw when he was starting was missed tackles - nine in the first four games including an astonishing five in the (win over the) Packers,” Cunningham said. “His primary coverage numbers weren't great either. Allowed 13 of 17 targets to be complete for 192 yards and a TD.”
Nicholson’s struggles continued after Clinton-Dix’s arrival. Cunningham recalled the safety taking a bad angle as the last line of defense on Falcons’ receiver Calvin Ridley's long catch-and-run touchdown in Week 9 among his errors.
While Clinton-Dix hasn’t wowed, perhaps the Redskins appreciate him limiting the mistakes.
“I would personally say Clinton-Dix has been an upgrade on Nicholson,” Cunningham said, “but that upgrade didn't come with any game-changing plays.”
Gruden hinted this week at a possible Nicholson return especially as the regular season winds down. Clinton-Dix enters free agency in 2019.
"Yeah, we have to look at Montae again,” Gruden said. “I think nobody gave up on Montae, we traded for a good player, a Pro-Bowl type player in HaHa and we wanted to give him every opportunity to come in and play. It wasn’t that we were down on Montae at all, we just needed depth at that position, got him in here and we liked what we saw, so we put him out there early.
“But, Montae does have a chance to play in the next three weeks quite a bit if we choose to that route because he is a good player with great speed."
The Redskins have perhaps three more weeks to determine how good Nicholson is or enter the offseason wondering if a new safety plan must emerge.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
- Working Out: Guice lifts weights with Reuben Foster
- Hit the Books: Josh Johnson is cramming for his first Redskins start
- Still Hope?: Redskins path to the playoffs