Bills (0-5) @ Ravens (4-2)
We all remember the last time the Ravens and Buffalo Bills met, back in the 2007 season.
There are some unfortunate similarities between that game and this one, namely:
- The 2007 meeting was in Week 7, as is this one.
- Entering that game, the Bills were 1-4, and the Ravens were 4-2. This time, the Ravens have the exact same record, while the Bills are just a bit worse at 0-5.
- In 2007, the Bills were coming off their bye week. In 2010, the same holds true.
Let’s hope those are the only similarities, as that game was an epic embarrassment for the Ravens, and one that the ball rolling on what would ultimately be the longest losing streak in franchise history (nine games) a scenario that cost the head coach and quarterback their jobs.
Now that I’ve got you feeling all warm and fuzzy about Sunday’s game, let me go ahead and allay some of those fears. I’ve, for the most part, gotten over my stereotypical Ravens fan fear of games like this…games where the Ravens have absolutely no business losing. That mentality was beaten into us by years and years of Brian Billick teams continually playing down (or up, as the case may have been) to the level of their opponents, driving us mad with losses to teams like…well, like the Buffalo Bills.
Now, to be fair, that 2007 team was a complete mess, and the 4-2 record was a house of cards waiting to crumble for any fan that was honest with themselves. Nobody was talking about the Ravens as true Super Bowl contenders, among the league’s elite, as they are here in 2010, even after the loss last week in Foxborough.
On top of that, as we’ve stressed here time and again, and as Ravens fans are slowly learning to become more comfortable with: John Harbaugh’s teams do not suffer those types of letdowns, and routinely beat the stuffing out of “inferior” opponents. The Buffalo Bills are undoubtedly in that category. Hell, there was an article on ESPN this week asking (in all seriousness) if the Bills might lose to a UFL team. At least there’s no pressure on them right? So they got that goin’.
Moving on to the meat and potatoes of the contest, the Ravens have the edge in just about every category. For starters, the Bills have the NFL’s worst rush defense, allowing 182.4 yards per game, and have allowed at least 200 yards on the ground in three consecutive contests. They no doubt spent their bye week trying to figure out how to plug those gaping holes in the run defense, but nonetheless should be no match for Ray Rice, Willis McGahee (maybe?), and Le’Ron McClain (provided Pain Train knows which play is called). After not seeing a single snap in New England, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Willis get a lot of work Sunday, with the coaching staff giving him every opportunity to have a huge day against his former team.
Their pass defense is ranked 10th in the league at 200 yards per game, but those numbers are a bit deceiving. As discussed, teams don’t have to throw the ball against Buffalo, because it’s just so damn easy to run it. Additionally, they have surrendered 10 touchdowns through the air in just five games, and have picked off just a single pass (by David Garrard in Week 5). Joe Flacco has been very good in the Ravens’ two home games this season, throwing for 458 yards, 3 TDs, and no interceptions. Bills’ staring cornerback Terrence McGee is expected to miss the game with a back injury, which should just open things up more for Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Todd Heap returned to practice Thursday, and should be available despite the neck injury he suffered on that helmet-to-helmet hit from the Patriots’ Brandon Merriweather.
On offense, the Bills aren’t faring much better. Their quarterback position has been unsettled already this season, as they played the first two games with Trent Edwards under center, before trading him to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Former Bengal Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken over the past three games and has played reasonably well, throwing seven touchdowns to just two interceptions. I’d be remiss not to mention though, that those three performances came against the Patriots, Jets, and Jaguars, none of whom have pass defenses ranked higher than 22nd. The Ravens’ #3 pass defense, picked on a bit by Kyle Orton (in junk time) and Tom Brady (when it REALLY mattered) over the last two weeks, could benefit from the return of safety Ed Reed, who is expected to be a game-time decision.
The last time Fitzpatrick faced the Ravens, he was just 12/31 for 124 yards, and fumbled twice. I have to note, however, that Fitzpatrick is a threat to scramble, as he was also the Bengals’ leading rusher in that game, with 3 carries for 29 yards. Against the Jets a few weeks back, he carried 7 times for 74 yards, so the Ravens will certainly have to be aware of his ability to pick up yards with his feet.
If Jarret Johnson is to be believed, Fitzpatrick’s running ability is not flying under the Ravens’ radar.
“He runs around,” Johnson said. “That’s what we’ve had trouble with in the past. We didn’t expect him to scramble and he scrambled all over us. He can create some things.”
The Ravens will also be getting an emotional boost this Sunday, as the team is scheduled to honor the 2000 Super Bowl Team on their 10th Anniversary in a special halftime ceremony. Remember back in 2007, when Pittsburgh brought back all those guys from the 1970s on the Monday Night game against the Ravens, and were up 28-0 after the first quarter or something ridiculous like that? I expect a similar situation Sunday, with the current Ravens stepping up as Jonathan Ogden, Trent Dilfer, Jamal Lewis, Michael McCrary, Tony Siragusa and others look on. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Ray Lewis plays absolutely out of his mind against the Bills. As if the guy could ever play with any more emotion, seeing his old teammates gathered in one place again, especially on the field at M&T Bank Stadium, could provide a boost that will have Bills offensive players tapping out by halftime.
Not that I’m predicting an early blowout or anything. Just saying it wouldn’t surprise me.
Ravens 34 Bills 10