This week the 4-2 Ravens travel north (almost to Canada, right Willis?) to take on the 1-4 Buffalo Bills. When looking at the Bills record, along with their stats this season (they fall near the bottom in most categories on both offense and defense, as seen above) Ravens fans may be lulled into a sense of ease about this game. However, the Bills probably are not as bad as they want us to believe.
The Bills are 1-2 at Ralph Wilson Stadium this season, both losses in which they never trailed until the last second of the game – a 15-14 loss to the Broncos in week 1, and a 25-24 Monday night loss to Dallas in week 5, a game the Bills led 24-13 after 3 quarters. They were not competitive in their other two losses, which came on the road against very strong teams in Pittsburgh and New England. Their lone win was over the New York Jets 17-14.
While the stats may paint a bleak picture of this Bills team, the Nest thinks they may be a bit misleading. Over their past 2 games (NYJ, DAL), the Bills defense has been much more stout than their 32nd overall ranking indicates. After allowing big days on the ground by Travis Henry, Willie Parker, and Laurence Maroney in succession to start the year, the Bills then held Thomas Jones to less than 3 yards per carry, and the Julius Jones-Marion Barber tandem to less than 3.5. And while their secondary allowed Tony Romo to pass for over 300 yards in leading the Cowboys back from behind, they still managed to intercept him 5 times.
On offense, the Bills stat sheet again indicates ineptitude all around. Again, though, this may be a bit misleading. Buffalo features a dynamic rookie running back in Marshawn Lynch, and a different quarterback than the Ravens saw the last time these two teams met last New Year’s Eve. Rookie Trent Edwards has taken over for J.P. Losman, and shown some ability, that, when paired with the Ravens’ banged up secondary, should make purple and black fans a little uneasy. In the win over New York, Edwards was 22/28 for 234 yards and a TD. Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis had this to say after the game:
“He threw the ball more than we expected. We knew he was a talented quarterback. We didn’t think he’d do this to us. But he did.”
Edwards didn’t fare quite as well against Dallas, but that may have been more a result of Dick Jauron’s going into “shut-down mode” after the Cowboys handed his team a big lead than of his QB’s inability to move the ball. The Ravens defense would be wise to heed Ellis’ words and be prepared for Edwards to try to air it out. If Buffalo can use the pass to loosen up the running lanes for Lynch, watch out. If, however, they try to run to set up the pass, then they will play right into Rex Ryan’s hands and everyone watching should get comfortable in preparation for another punt-a-thon.
The Ravens offense, on the other hand, has been steadily slipping in terms of overall production. Willis McGahee returns to face the team that drafted him, and while he has been saying all the right things this week, the Nest doesn’t buy it, and thinks he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. McGahee continues to be near the top of the league in rushing, but has yet to break the big one that we Ravens fans are waiting for (funny, he has no problem breaking off 60 yard runs regularly on Madden – but I digress). All the injuries to the offensive line certainly don’t help, though, and he probably won’t have the day he is hoping for in celebration of not only his coming-home party, but his birthday as well. Center Mike Flynn has indicated that he will “give it a go” this week, while Todd Heap will likely not play. Kyle Boller again gets the start behind center. Boller, who played reasonably well last week, will have to be better in Buffalo. Its nice to see him taking shots down the field and all, but eventually he will have to connect with one (and not just a jump-ball) for defenses to really start respecting his arm. Kyle will also have to pretend he is playing in B-More, as he has a career record of 5-12 as a starter outside of M&T Bank stadium.
The Ravens are just looking to survive this week and get out of The Queen City at 5-2 so they can go into the bye and hopefully get healthy for the 2nd half. The Nest sees the patchwork Ravens having a tough time in this one, though, a game that Buffalo has had two weeks to prepare and rest up for. We advise Ravens fans to break out that blood pressure medication we were able to shelf last week for this one. It will take a big play late by the defense or special teams to reach 5-2.
Ravens 16 Bills 13
(As always, please leave YOUR score predictions in the comments)