5 Baltimore Ravens To Watch In Week 4
5 Baltimore Ravens To Watch Vs Buffalo Bills
Baltimore isn't taking this Bills team lightly, as they don't play that often and know that they should be expecting their best, due to the fact that they are still the defending Super Bowl champions. The last time these two franchises squared off, it was 2010 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, as the Ravens squeezed out a 37-34 win in overtime nevertheless. Ironically enough, this was the game when the 2000 Super Bowl champion Ravens were honored in front of the home crowd.
Both of these teams are significantly different from that season and heading into Week 4 of the NFL season, these two squads could head in drastically different directions based on the result of this game.
Buffalo is a team that I can see finishing with a 7-9, or even an 8-8, record. They have solid skill players on offense, and having a quarterback like E.J. Manuel, albeit a rookie, can create unique opportunities for the offense to make big plays. It's just a matter of offensive line play coming together, converting third downs and consistency on defense for this team that hasn't made the playoffs since 1999.
On paper, the Ravens should handle this team, especially with their front seven getting healthier and key pieces on offense like running back Ray Rice. Deonte Thompson may also see his first action of the season at the wide receiver position this week.
If you find yourself watching the game and searching for difference-making players this weekend, here's a few guys to watch.
Jeffrey Kryglik is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter at Jeff_Kryglik, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.
If there ever was a game that a quarterback should dominate an opponent, it is this week for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Some may still be questioning why Baltimore inked Joe for six years and $120 million, but you saw last week against the Texans that if Joe is given time, he can make all of the right throws better than most in the league. Just watch that pitch-and-catch to wide receiver Torrey Smith again.
This Bills' secondary has been dealing with their fair share of injuries, so if Flacco can be kept upright by his offensive line, look for Smith and Marlon Brown to escape into the secondary for a few big plays, leading to a big day for Flacco.
I wrote a piece earlier this week about why I think outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw should see more snaps this week against the Bills than he has in the first three weeks of the season. Upshaw is known for his ability to set the edge in the running game, and not allowing offensive players to get outside of his grasp and onto the second level of the defense. Facing a mobile quarterback like Manuel and a slasher at running back like C.J. Spiller, it is imperative that Upshaw stays home and doesn't get happy feet against these athletic freaks.
Slowly but surely, Ravens safety James Ihedigbo is emerging as one of the better players on this Baltimore defense. The guys in the locker room are beginning to view him as a leader for their squad, as it seems like he is constantly communicating and talking at the back end of that defense. In facing a rookie quarterback, his role will be important, not only as one of the extra guys in the box for run support, but the way he plays in coverage against tight end Scott Chandler. Rookie quarterbacks tend to look at the tight end as a security blanket, so Ihedigbo should be on top of things for Baltimore.
Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith should have a field day Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. He has shown, especially in the last two weeks, that he is beginning to further develop the skills needed to be a true No. 1 receiver for this Ravens team. However, this week he may not have to be completely crisp on all of his routes, as the Ravens should look to feed Smith early and often deep down the field. With a secondary like Buffalo's, you would have to figure that Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will look for several deep balls down the field to Smith early and often.
This, once again, is based on if the Ravens have him available for Sunday's game, but Rice appears to possibly have a decent chance of throwing the pads on this week. It remains to be seen just how healthy that injured left hip flexor still is, but he will be a game-time decision for the Ravens. At least having Rice on the field in some form or fashion can only benefit Baltimore, as he provides a dual-threat back that can give running back Bernard Pierce some relief in the pressure department. While Baltimore may not need him this week, I would like to see him at least touch the ball 15 times to stay loose.