Returning home after another heartbreaking divisional loss, the Bills prepare to take on the defending Super Bowl champ Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at the Ralph. Since being dismantled by Peyton Manning and the Broncos in week one, the Ravens have no allowed a single touchdown against them over the last two games. The Ravens defense will be another good test for EJ Manuel and this young Buffalo team.
Hopefully Coach Marrone brought the hammer down after last week’s embarrassment in the Meadowlands. That game needs to be a wake up call for the Bills. Fans have them under the microscope and expect this team to improve as the season wears on. Sunday is a great opportunity for them to prove themselves. EJ Manuel needs to prove that he can rebound from the worst game of his young career and Doug Marrone needs to prove he can keep morale high and his team focused after a heartbreaking loss.
With Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed down in Houston, you’d think the Ravens defense would be falling apart but, that’s not the case. In a recent statement, Ray Lewis said the team, on a whole, “lacks leadership”. However, their defense promptly found a new leader in an old vet; Terrell Suggs. Suggs has been with the Ravens since they drafted him 10th overall in 2003 but, his achievements have often been overshadowed by those of Lewis and Reed. Now, Suggs is heading up a defense with more aggression than before. With already 11 sacks for a staggering loss of 80 yards, the Ravens D knows how to get to the quarterback and can quickly change the game. Other than Suggs who leads the team in sacks (3), the Bills need to also watch out for is 10 year veteran linebacker, Daryl Smith. Smith leads the team in tackles (25) and batted down passes (5). He also got his first ever pick 6 last week against the Texans. It’s safe to say that, with a couple stars gone from the lineup, others have the chance to rise. The Ravens defense is quickly working its way back to being the aggressive juggernaut we’ve seen in the past.
The Bills defense showed its cards all too often last week and they paid for it. Not only did they get beat deep by a rookie QB and trampled by a no-name running back; they also lost some key players in the process. Alex Carrington was having the season of his career and now is out for the year with a broken arm. Leodis McKelvin suffered a shoulder injury and is questionable for Sunday. Both Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus left the game with ankle issues but will be fine to play. The rundown secondary is hurting but, luckily, the linebacker corps is healthy and hungry for blood. I can’t say enough for Kiko Alonso. The rookie has 2 interceptions, a sack, 27 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery over his first 3 games. The other new guy, former Bengal, Manny Lawson, had a breakout game against the Jets with 14 tackles. Needless to say, the Bills have found solutions at linebacker for the first time in a while.
Here’s the thing about Joe Flacco; he’s not that great. Some might apply the label of “game manager” but that’s not entirely the case. No, he doesn’t put up the big numbers and no, in my opinion, he’s not an “elite” quarterback. But, he has 3 things that make him the guy you want; the ability to find the open man, a knack for make everyone around him better and the overwhelming trust of his teammates. He’s the right fit for Baltimore and, when you find the right fit, everything starts clicking; which explains how the Ravens haven’t missed the playoffs since drafting Flacco in 2008.
Speaking of everything clicking, EJ Manuel is the Joe Flacco of Buffalo. He’s a stand-up style player who can move when he needs to and get the ball to the guys who can make plays. He lost his characteristic poise in last week’s beat down in Jersey due to the constant defensive pressure and wasn’t looking like himself. You can be sure the film room in Baltimore was playing that game all week. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ravens’ opportunistic defense mimics some of Rex Ryan’s schemes in order to throw off Manuel early in the game. The key for the Bills to pull out a big win Sunday is to get EJ looking downfield and giving him enough time to comfortably make long passes to the corners. Fred Jackson will be the man of the hour for the run game, if there is a run game. You have to be a tough face smashing back to penetrate the Baltimore line.
This team has a lot to prove after last week. Mostly, fans want to see the Bills, for once, pick themselves up, dust off and come back stronger than ever.
P.S. Very doubtful this game will make the Who Dressed Best? list over at The Packer Perspective. Blue, red and purple? Let’s just hope, for the sake of your eyes, the Bills go with their rare all white home threads on Sunday.
– Josh Paufler
Sunday September 28th 2013
Kickoff 1:00 pm
Ralph Wilson Stadium – Orchard Park, NY
TV: CBS – Local Channel 4
Radio: WGR 550 AM