Tale Of The Tape: Baltimore Ravens At Buffalo Bills
- QuarterbackJoe Flacco is the best player on the Ravens. Much more is expected of him this year because the Ravens’ defense is quite vulnerable. Flacco is one of the best deep throwers in the league, and he has an offensive line that will give him time to throw it. Flacco may be feeling quite a bit of pressure after signing a huge contract in the offseason.The Bills are going with rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel this season and that means he is going to have a lot of learning experiences this year. The speed of opposing defenses may be neutralized by Manuel’s athletic ability and strong arm, but he is likely to be confused by changing defensive fronts.
- OffenseRay Rice (hip flexor) has not been at his best in the early season, but he should be at or near his best in this game. He gets the benefit of the Ravens’ offensive line, which is one of the best in the league. Torrey Smith has been a frequent target of Flacco’s downfield attempts and he has been good but not great. Wideout Brandon Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark will not drop any pass they can get their hands on.The combination of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson in the backfield should not be overlooked. Spiller (knee, check status) is a legitimate breakaway threat, while Jackson has some solid moves. The running game must produce with a rookie quarterback behind center. Stevie Johnson is a legitimate game-breaking wide receiver as long as he doesn’t drop a couple of passes early. The other Bills’ receivers are below average.
- DefenseThe Ravens have problems covering opposing receivers, an area that was once a tremendous strength. Haloti Ngata can blow up the interior run from his position in the middle of the defensive line. Strong safety James Ihedigbo is a solid hitter who has better than average range. The Ravens need excellent pressure from pass rusher Terrell Suggs.The Bills have been weak against the run and average against the pass so far, but that has a chance to change because defensive end Mario Williams is a monster once again and he has a chance to take over every game. Linebacker Kiko Alonso is very active and aware, and he is a secure tackler. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin is an up-and-down performer.
- Special TeamsThe Ravens have often been among the best special teams in the league for years, but that’s not the case so far this season as their coverage teams have struggled. Placekicker Justin Tucker has not been as consistent this season, while punter Sam Koch is just average.The Bills have been slightly above average in the punt and kickoff coverage, but that’s quite a bit better than the Ravens. Dan Carpenter appears to be a solid placekicker with excellent leg strength. McKelvin has been ordinary as a return man.
The Ravens appear to have the advantage in this game because of Flacco’s arm strength and his ability to get the ball deep. However, the Bills could surprise at home, especially if Williams can have a dominant game and put consistent heat on the Baltimore quarterback. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor