Week 4 Primer: Baltimore Ravens vs Buffalo Bills
Week 4 Preview: Baltimore Ravens vs Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills are 1-2 and headed into a tough match-up against the 2-1 defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens this Sunday in Buffalo. This match-up couldn't come at a worse time for the Bills who have an injury list a mile long heading into the weekend. To make matters worse, E.J. Manuel and the Bills offense has to face off against virtually the same defense that stifled them all day Sunday against the New York Jets.
On the injury front, things looked a bit improved in practice on Thursday. Four of the nine starters who missed practice on Wednesday — Stevie Johnson, Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Kraig Urbik — were all back on the practice field on Thursday. Unfortunately for the Bills, there has been little improvement among their injured defensive backs. The only player to take a step forward on Thursday was Jairus Byrd who will likely not see his first action of the season on Sunday anyway. All signs point to the Bills facing off with the Ravens without Leodis McKelvin in addition to Stephon Gilmore and Ron Brooks. That means Justin Rogers, who was torched by the Jets offense last week, will be the top corner against Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith and the rest of the Ravens offense.
This is a gut check game for the Bills. If they can keep it close like they did with the Jets and find a way to be within striking distance at the end they will have a better shot at creating some more late magic at home. The key to this game will be keeping it close. With the injuries to the Bills secondary it's a very honest question to ask whether or not they can actually do that. Here are my keys to the game on both sides of the ball.
Bills Pass Offense vs Ravens Pass Defense
The Bills might have an opening here on offense. The Ravens suffered a lot of turnover in the secondary in the offseason, losing Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and Cary Williams. The key is for the Bills offensive line, which struggled last week, to keep Manuel upright long enough to try and get the ball down-field. The X-factor for the Bills' pass offense will be Scott Chandler who had his best game of the season last week and can move the ball down the middle of the field in chunks.
Ravens Pass Offense vs Bills Pass Defense
A word of advice for Fantasy owners of Flacco ... start him. He has been groomed into a savvy veteran QB over the past few years and this is the exact type of match-up that he could thrive against. Look for the Ravens to try and isolate Rogers on Smith and exploit that match-up all day long.
Bills Rush Offense vs Ravens Rush Defense
Another week and it's another tough matchup for the Bills' running backs. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller will have to work extra hard to create yardage in the run game this week. The Ravens still have one of the best front sevens in the game and they like to keep all the action in front of them. The Bills should look to draws and screens to try and counter Baltimore's attacking defense. They failed to do that last week and found themselves in second and third and longs all day. A repeat performance like that won't cut it against the Ravens.
Ravens Rush Offense vs Bills Rush Defense
This is another favorable matchup for the Ravens. The Bills have given up a 100-yard rusher in two of the first three games of the season. The Ravens should have Ray Rice back giving them the two-headed monster of Rice and Bernard Pierce. It's hard to see how the Bills will be able to stop that duo since they've had little success against far less superior running games. Safety help will be limited in the run game since they'll have to play back to help the weak corners.
Final Score Prediction: Ravens 34, Bills 10
It looks like one of those games for the Bills. It's hard not to see the Ravens racking up a cool 400 yards of offense against this depleted defense and I don't see Manuel and the Bills keeping up. If Manuel can limit his mistakes, which admittedly he has, then maybe they can keep it close for a while but how long until the Bills are matching TDs with field goals or punts? The Ravens are in a class that the Bills simply aren't in yet and won't be for several years. That shows on Sunday.