Baltimore Ravens vs. Buffalo Bills Preview: 5 Key Matchups
Baltimore Ravens vs. Buffalo Bills: 5 Key Matchups
On paper, the 2-1 Ravens should handle the 1-2 Bills with relative ease. But, as the saying goes, on any given Sunday, anything can happen. The Bills have showed the typical early-season fight that has left their fans disappointed in recent years, but with a new coach and new quarterback, there is reason to hope this year can be different.
Buffalo split two squeakers in the first two games of the season, before dropping another close one to the equally surprising New York Jets and their rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Meanwhile, the Ravens have rebounded from an embarrassing Week One loss to capture two wins against conference rivals.
The Ravens hope their new-look defense, bolstered by holdovers Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, is closer to the one that has given up 15 points in the last two weeks combined, not the one that gave up seven touchdowns to Peyton Manning in Week One. Meanwhile, the Bills continue to build around young playmakers EJ Manuel, Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods and CJ Spiller.
Can the Bills circle the wagons for an upset win at home? Or will the Ravens and Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco continue to put the Bills in perpetual rebuilding mode? Click on to see the five key match-ups that will determine the outcome of this Week Four battle.
OLB Terrell Suggs vs. LT Cordy Glenn
With three sacks in the first three games, "Sizzle" has taken the leadership role of the defense, vacated by the retirement of Ray Lewis and departure of Ed Reed, and run with it. If there is one thing that gives quarterbacks fits, especially rookies, it's pressure from the blind side. If the mammoth (6'6," 345) second-year tackle from Georgia can't help keep E.J. Manuel's jersey clean, it will be a long day for the young QB and the rest of the offense.
WR Stevie Johnson vs. CB Lardarius Webb
When the Bills win, it is usually because Stevie Johnson had a good day. Dating back to last season, in the Bills' last seven wins, Johnson has at least 100 yards or a touchdown in five of them. In the other two games, Johnson posted 79 and 82 yards, respectively.
After missing out on the Ravens' Super Bowl win with a torn ACL, Lardarius Webb has reclaimed his status as the Ravens' top cornerback. Expect EJ Manuel to test Webb's reconstructed knee early and often.
Haloti Ngata vs. Bills' Running Game
C.J. Spillerwas a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, and remains listed as "questionable" on the injury report. That could leave the door open for the ageless Fred Jackson. No matter who is running the ball for Buffalo, the site of 340 -lb. Haloti Ngata barreling through the line will not be a welcome one.
Establishing a solid ground game is essential to the success of any rookie QB facing a veteran-laden defense like Baltimore's. That makes the jobs of center Eric Wood and guards Colin Brown and Kraig Urbik even more imperative come Sunday. If they want to be successful, the interior lineman must hold the giant Samoan at bay.
Torrey Smith vs. Leodis McKelvin
Torrey Smith is on a mission this season to prove that his not merely a complementary deep threat, but a legitimate number one receiver in this league. Thus far, the results have been mixed. He has yet to break the 100-yard plateau or reach the end zone, but has posted consistent totals of 92, 85 and 92 yards in his first three games, respectively.
Now, he faces a new challenge in two-time pro bowler Leodis McKelvin. McKelvin will look to shut down Smith and force the rest of the Ravens' unproven pass catchers to defeat the Bills' secondary. While Smith's aforementioned yardage totals are solid, he has yet to prove that he can be the clutch third down and red zone safety net of his predecessor, Anquan Boldin.
Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams vs. Ravens' Running Game
While Joe Flacco is trusted much more now since his Super Bowl run, this is still an offense built around its running backs. Ray Rice was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, and it is still unclear if his hip injury will prevent him from suiting up on Sunday.
If that is the case, the rushing attack will be in the hands of the more-than-capable Bernard Pierce. Pierce is more of a straight-ahead runner than the versatile Rice, which could play right into the hands of Williams and the talented Dareus, 2011's third overall pick who is still in search of his first pro bowl.
If the Bills' defensive tackles can force the Ravens to become one-dimensional, the D can unleash DE Mario Williams, a week removed from a 4.5 sack effort against Cam Newton, on Flacco, which could force the QB into rushed throws to his unproven receiving corps.
However, since the Bills are allowing 155 yards per game on the ground, I would not hold my breath that this will happen if I were a Bills' fan with the Ravens' fifth-ranked rushing offense coming to town.
Alexander Diegel is a columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @ItsaDiegel, "like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on google
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