Before we get to Week 4, allow me to put a smile on Bills fans faces for a moment. In honor of the US sailing team’s miraculous comeback against New Zealand, ESPN did a countdown of the 10 best comebacks of all time. The Buffalo Bills remain on top of all such lists with their 35-3 comeback victory against the Houston Oilers. So let’s hop into our DeLoreans, and go back that Wild Card playoff game from 1992. Take a moment….
Ok, back to reality. This week, the Buffalo Bills are hosting the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco and his flock aren’t exactly what the Bills needed right now after losing their 2nd divisional matchup in heartbreaking fashion. All Bills fans have learned to not dwell on the past, and to look forward to the future, so let’s look ahead shall we?
The Bills need E.J. Manuel to have learned from his mistakes last week. The Jets put a lot of pressure on Manuel, which exposed his inexperience as a quarterback. Manuel ended up getting sacked 8 times last week due to Rex Ryan throwing linebackers and defensive backs at him left and right. The Ravens certainly aren’t shy about applying pressure. Manuel is going to have to extend plays using his legs if he wants any shot of redeeming his poor performance last week.
Buffalo’s offensive line is going to have to step up as well. With the likes of Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata on the other side of the ball, the line needs to stand tough. Last week, the offensive line allowed Manuel to get sacked 8 times and were unable to open up holes for C.J. Spiller, who ran for 9 yards on 10 attempts. They definitely are going to have to do much better against the Ravens.
Speaking of C.J. Spiller, it is reported that he is expected to play this week after hurting his hamstring against the Jets. Although Spiller is going to be dressed, I don’t expect him to be getting the type of carries he normally would. That means that Fred Jackson is going to have to take most of the snaps at running back this week. Jackson had a decent game last week, rushing for 73 yards. Along with having a good game on the ground, Jackson is going to have to be a reliable check down option for Manuel when the pocket collapses.
On defense, Buffalo must get better at stopping the run. Last week they allowed Bilal Powell to rush for 149 yards. Bilal Powell. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Ray Rice is a much better back than Bilal Powell. Mario Williams and the Bills defense will have to step up their game if they want to prevent “Hey Diddle Diddle, Ray Rice up the Middle”.
As far as the Buffalo secondary is concerned, this is the worst possible time for the potent Ravens passing game to come to town. The Bills suffered another blow to their already depleted secondary last week when Leodis McKelvin left the game in the 1st quarter with a hamstring injury. Geno Smith was able to capitalize off the inexperienced back-ups last week, passing for over 300 yards for the first time in his NFL career. Buffalo’s back-ups need to channel their inner Frank Reich and play as well, if not better than the starting unit to prevent Flacco from doing the same.
With all the question marks the Bills have this week, let’s turn to Vegas and see what they think. Odds makers have the Ravens favored by 3 points. Only 3? Does Vegas know something that I missed? Anyways, I would be a horrible Bills writer if I didn’t pick the Bills to win. So, my prediction is Bills 31, Ravens 28.
If I’m wrong and the game gets out of hand, re-read the first paragraph for a little pick-me-up.