Last Thursday I mentioned a number of teams averaging under 20 points per game due to poor quarterback play and that most of them would be looking for new starters next year. Well, on Monday the Colts became the latest team to make the move this season after benching Matt Ryan so that they can see what they have in second year QB Sam Ehlinger. I believe that makes them the sixth of the 12 teams under that 20 point mark that will have started multiple quarterbacks this year.
It’s no real surprise but it’s also not a coincidence that the three clear Super Bowl favourites are teams led by the three clear MVP favourites (Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes). Aside from the odd exception, no team without a difference maker at quarterback is going to be able to seriously contend in the modern NFL and so it makes sense for teams like the Colts to move on from guys like Matt Ryan who are clearly past it, sooner rather than later.
This week’s Thursday Night Football features one QB just outside that top three and another that is potentially down to his last dance.
Baltimore Ravens +1.5 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 46.5
This is the first time Tom Brady is facing the Ravens as a Buccaneer, having gone 6-2 against them in regular season matchups with the Patriots. One of those losses was in his only previous matchup with Lamar Jackson back in 2019.
After an indifferent season, the Bucs somehow still find themselves at the top of the NFC South but will want to turn things around quickly after a couple of pretty shambolic losses to the Panthers and Steelers. While the Ravens are trying to win back to back games for the first time this year after playing out a number of one possession games in recent weeks.
Lamar Jackson started the season hot, throwing 10 touchdowns in the first three games of the season but in the four games since then has managed just three. In those same splits he has also gone from passing for 250 yards a game down to 162 and from rushing for 81 yards per game down to 66. With lines of 209.5 and 60.5 in this one I would lean the under on his passing but think I am taking the over on his rushing, 60.5 feels closer to his floor than his average. I also like Lamar to have 50+ rushing yards and 1+ rushing touchdowns which is enhanced to 10/3 on Paddy Power.
Mark Andrews remains the top target but is questionable for this game and was held without a catch by the Browns last week. It seems like that stat line was more related to the Browns defensive approach than his lingering knee injury but it is worth monitoring. If he does suit up he will surely have a bounce back game and I would lean the over on his receiving yard line (as the Buccaneers secondary is pretty banged up) which is probably going to be late 60’s. Rashod Bateman is also questionable but the bookies at least think he is more likely to play as they are offering lines. His line is 48.5 and again would lean the over, particularly if Andrews is out. It might be one to monitor and jump on quickly if Andrews is ruled out.
Gus Edwards returned to the backfield with JK Dobbins going on IR and while he did get the most carries, it seems unlikely he gets too much more work in this game with Kenyan Drake and Justice Hill still around. I would lean under on his 44.5 yard line but will probably avoid.
Tom Brady is obviously the big name in the Tampa Bay offense and is always going to be the talking point while they are struggling. But the main issue for the Bucs this season has been their run game, which is on course to be one of the worst in recent memory. Obviously the sample size is still small but they are averaging under 65 yards per game at 3.0 yards per carry. In home games this drops to 35 yards per game, mainly thanks to totalling three yards against the Chiefs in Week 4.
With these struggles in mind it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rachaad White given a few more opportunities as the season progresses, but his average yards per carry is just 2.7 so he’ll have to improve on that to gain any significant role. Tonight, I think I would take the over on 2.5 receptions for White and avoid the rest of the run game for Tampa completely.
The issue in the passing game has not been the yardage but instead the touchdowns. Brady has just eight so far this season and has had just one multiple touchdown game. As usual Mike Evans has led the team in touchdown catches with three (tied with Fournette) with Chris Godwin having the slight edge in catches per game. With Russell Gage and Julio Jones both probably out for this one I would lean the over on both Evans and Godwin’s lines (67.5 and 71.5) but under on Brady’s (282.5).
This is a tough game to call but Brady’s 14-3 Thursday night record has me leaning towards the Bucs having a bounce back game tonight. Recent games for these teams trend towards the under but I am going go against that and say we have a second straight high scoring Thursday Night Football after a disappointing start to the season.