Ravens rushing vs. Bucs run defense -- BUCS
For the Ravens to win, they will have to establish a running game to keep Tampa Bay's defensive front off-balance. In his first start in six weeks, Ravens running back Terry Allen showed some pop in his step in gaining 91 yards against the Bengals last week. But the Ravens have averaged only 77 yards per game and 3 yards a carry against teams with winning records this season. The Buccaneers are ranked 13th against the run but have been erratic the past couple of weeks. After giving up 173 rushing yards to Chicago's Anthony Thomas, Tampa Bay held New Orleans' Ricky Williams to 26 yards on 10 carries.
Ravens passing vs. Bucs pass defense -- BUCS
Keeping pressure off quarterback Elvis Grbac is key for the Ravens. Tampa Bay end Simeon Rice will look to continue his success against Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden, and Bucs tackle Warren Sapp will be a load for guards Bennie Anderson and Edwin Mulitalo. Grbac will need to show more of a downfield presence than in past weeks. He has taken fewer risks to cut down on his interceptions. In the past two games, Grbac has thrown only one interception but has produced just two passes over 20 yards.
Bucs rushing vs. Ravens run defense -- RAVENS
The Ravens' run defense has shown some cracks over the past two games, giving up a total of 308 yards. The three-year streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher ended last week, when the Ravens couldn't control the gaps inside and allowed Corey Dillon to rack up 127 yards. But the Ravens have a chance to return to form against the Bucs' underachieving running game. Tampa Bay, second-to-last in the NFL in rushing, employs a predictable running back rotation, using Mike Alstott inside and Warrick Dunn on the edges.
Bucs passing vs. Ravens pass defense --EVEN
Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson is efficient but doesn't have the arm strength to beat teams deep. The Bucs rely heavily on receiver Keyshawn Johnson on slants and Dunn on swing routes. Johnson and Dunn have combined for 51 percent of the team's catches but have totaled only four touchdowns. Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister will shadow Keyshawn Johnson and will have to match the physical play of the NFL's leading receiver. The Ravens need to hurry Brad Johnson, who has been sacked 44 times.
Special teams -- RAVENS
Strong-legged Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica is questionable with a hamstring injury, and Tampa signed Doug Brien in case Gramatica can't go. Tampa ranks in the top half in the league in punt and kickoff returns as well as punt and kickoff coverage. The Ravens' Jermaine Lewis, who is second in the AFC in punt and kickoff returns, brought back a kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown in his last game in Tampa, the Super Bowl. Five of Ravens punter Kyle Richardson's seven kicks landed inside the 20-yard line last week.
Intangibles -- BUCS
The Ravens can clinch a playoff berth with a victory. Tampa Bay is 9-0 at Raymond James Stadium in December under coach Tony Dungy. The Ravens are 1-1 in prime-time games this season. The Bucs, coming off a 48-21 rout of New Orleans, have struggled in following up big wins.
Prediction -- BUCS
This time, the Ravens' trip to Tampa won't end in celebration, as the Bucs will hold on at the end, 17-10.-- Jamison Hensley
Line:Bucs by 1.
Vs. spread:Ravens 6-6; Bucs 4-8.
Quick hits: Ravens RB Terry Allen has 633 rushing yards in eight career games vs. Tampa. ... Shannon Sharpe leads NFL tight ends with 66 catches. ... Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson leads NFL with 102 receptions.
RAVENS: Doubtful: CB James Trapp (groin). Questionable: FS Gary Baxter (leg); DE Rob Burnett (low leg); DT Tony Siragusa (low leg/knee). Probable: DT Sam Adams (knee); G Bennie Anderson (shoulder); LB Peter Boulware (ankle); RB Jason Brookins (foot); WR Qadry Ismail (low leg/back); LB Brad Jackson (low leg); LS Joe Maese (leg); TE Shannon Sharpe (leg).
BUCS: Questionable: K Martin Gramatica (hamstring); S John Howell (ankle); C/G Todd Washington (knee). Probable: WR Reidel Anthony (hamstring); CB Ronde Barber (hamstring); G Cosey Coleman (ankle); RB Warrick Dunn (turf toe); S David Gibson (ankle); S John Lynch (shoulder); DT Anthony McFarland (thigh bruise); WR Frank Murphy (ankle); DE Simeon Rice (flu/dehydration); DT Warren Sapp (shoulder).
Ravens scout George Kokinis sizes up the Bucs:
Strength:Dangerous playmakers. Running back Warrick Dunn can score from anywhere on the field and takes advantage of spread-out defenses. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp is productive despite double teams. And cornerback Ronde Barber has stepped up with nine interceptions.