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Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5 players to watch, including Tom Brady

Vincent Frank

Two teams in that of the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to overcome early-season struggles as they do battle in Florida Thursday night.

Baltimore finds itself at 4-3 despite stellar play from quarterback Lamar Jackson. As for the Buccaneers, they are a mere 3-4 on the campaign and are coming off an ugly loss to the Carolina Panthers.

As the NFL schedule gears toward November and the middle point of the campaign, both of these squads need to get back on track. Below, we look at five players you should pay attention to for the mid-week game on Amazon Prime.

Related: Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers standing in Sportsnaut’s NFL power rankings

Baltimore Ravens’ Gus Edwards looks to pick up where he left off last week

baltimore ravens at tampa bay buccaneers: gus edwards
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Edwards made his season debut in last week’s 23-20 win over the Cleveland Browns. He had suffered a torn ACL back in September of 2021 and was slow to recover. In said outing against Cleveland, Edwards scored two touchdowns while accumulating 66 yards on 16 attempts.

With J.K. Dobbins sidelined to injury, the Ravens are going to be relying on Edwards to do his thing against a Buccaneers defense that ranks in the middle of the pack stopping the run. If he were to struggle here, it could force general manager Eric DeCosta to make a move ahead of the NFL trade deadline on Tuesday.

Related: Tampa Bay Buccaneers schedule and game-by-game predictions

Keanu Neal asked to step up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

baltimore ravens at tampa bay buccaneers: keanu neal
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Attempting to avoid its first three-game losing streak in two decades, Tampa Bay will be without defensive backs Antoine Winfield, Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting. That’s not an ideal scenario going up against an NFL MVP candidate.

Neal will now be a central focus for Tampa Bay as he takes snaps at safety in this one. A former Pro Bowler during his time with the Atlanta Falcons, Neal transitioned back to this position in Tampa after playing linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys a season ago. He’s yielding a 71.4% completion and 92.0 QB rating when targeted this season.

Related: Baltimore Ravens schedule and game-by-game predictions

Baltimore Ravens hope Marlon Humphrey is up to the task

baltimore ravens at tampa bay buccaneers: marlon humphrey
Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay’s struggles on offense have not necessarily extended to Mike Evans. He’s still among the most-productive receivers in the NFL, as evidenced by the fact that the four-time Pro Bowl performer is on pace for 88 receptions and north of 1,200 yards.

The expectation is that Evans will continue to be heavily-targeted by Tom Brady Thursday night. If so, the task is going to be up to Humphrey to slow down his fellow Pro Bowler. He’s more than played his role for Baltimore this season, yielding a 73.3 QB rating with two interceptions in coverage.

Related: Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady and NFL’s top QBs of 2022

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ QB Tom Brady’s rapid decline

baltimore ravens at tampa bay buccaneers: tom brady
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

To put Brady’s struggles into perspective, he’s currently on pace for his second-worst QB rating in the past decade. Brady’s eight touchdowns in seven games also has him on pace for what would be his lowest output since 2001. Part of the issue here is Brady’s inability to get the ball down the field.

“When you’re scoring three points and you are who we are, it’s collectively — it’s everywhere across the board. We’ve got to coach it better, we’ve got to play it better, we’ve got to have awareness in situation football — all those things that really matter that we’ve been so good at in the past.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwick on the Buccaneers’ offensive struggles

The Bucs have scored one touchdown in their past 22 offensive possessions. A lack of a running game, injuries on the offensive line and other factors have played a role here. But Brady must perform at a higher clip.

Related: Baltimore Ravens standing in Sportsnaut’s NFL defense rankings

Isaiah Likely’s time to step up for the Baltimore Ravens

baltimore ravens at tampa bay buccaneers: isaiah likely
Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

A fourth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina back in April, Likely will get his shot to prove his worth with Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews trending towards being inactive. Likely was dominant during the preseason. But has yet to make much of an impact through the first seven weeks of the regular campaign.

We’re highly intrigued to see if this changes given Lamar Jackson’s high pass distribution to the tight end position. If Andrews is unable to go, Likely will have to step up. It’s that simple.