By Samuel Njoku
The return of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to M&T Bank Stadium sparked the Ravens defense into a 30-9 victory over the vaunted Houston Texans. While many consider that to be a major upset, this team knew what they were capable of prior to the start of the regular season. Now they’ll take their talents on the road to face off against a Buffalo Bills team with loads of potential across the roster.
The Ravens will focus their defensive efforts on running back C.J. Spiller. That’s who the Bills rely on to break open for one or two big plays a game. But containing him will also help the Ravens defense disrupt the passing game. Rookie quarterbacks rely on good rushing attacks to keep the pressure off of them. Bills QB E.J. Manuel is no different. The Bills will look for Fred Jackson and Spiller to wear down a Ravens defense with a knack for getting after the ball carrier. Any type of success on the ground will pay immediate dividends for Manuel. The Ravens excel at rushing the passer and becoming one dimensional can mean big trouble for Buffalo.
If they can get the running game going early, WR Steve Johnson will become a player to watch for Buffalo. He is a playmaker and can make life hard for a secondary that is not a cohesive unit. But Johnson will need to get open as quickly as possible in this contest. If the last two weeks are any indication, the Ravens will not give E.J. Manuel much time to hold on to the football. Last week against the Jets, Manuel was sacked eight times. If that happens against Baltimore, Buffalo will lose.
The Ravens have been less than spectacular to say the least on the offensive side of the ball. That may make things easier for a Bills unit that is simply a middle of the pack defense. This game will have less to do with the Bills and more to do with the Ravens ability to get things going on offense. Baltimore’s offense has struggled without a go-to receiver to move the chains on third down. Whether or not Ray Rice plays is irrelevant for Buffalo. Whoever is in the backfield for Baltimore must be stopped. It is evident early this season that without a decent run attack, the Ravens offense struggles to move the football.
Sometimes the Ravens may become a pass-heavy team. If they resort to that style of play, they’ll need to watch out for players like LB Mario Williams who registered 4.5 sacks in Week 2 of the NFL season. Bryant McKinnie struggled somewhat against superstar DE J.J. Watt last Sunday against Houston. The Bills will watch film to see how they can duplicate the Texans scheme and fit it into their own game-plan.
Doug Marrone is in his first year as a head coach for the Buffalo Bills. Prior to his stint in Buffalo, he was the head coach for Syracuse from 2009-2012. The Bills are 2-3 all-time against the Baltimore Ravens. But the Bills are 1-0 in Buffalo winning 19-14 in 2007.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.