Welcome to Overreaction Of The Week, my over the top, uninhibited, Baltimore sports-fan takes on this week’s Orioles activity.
The Ravens are set to play their first game of the 2018 regular season on Sunday. They’ll host a playoff team from last year, the Buffalo Bills. Of course, the Bills made the playoffs as a result of the Ravens disastrous last play of the season. The Ravens have a chance to exact an indirect revenge on Sunday, but they’ll have to play a new look offense and a stout defense that the Ravens will have to overcome.
Ravens Offense vs. Bills Defense: The Ravens offense and Bills defense are both in their second full year with their respective coordinators. Joe Flacco finally has some consistency in the offense he’s running and looked in command throughout the preseason. Flacco and the offense were efficient and he showed strong rapport with his new targets, namely Michael Crabtree and John Brown. The biggest question coming into the first regular season game was the right tackle position, where James Hurst is now listed as the starter. The O-Line will have their hands full with Bills’ addition, Star Lotulelei, who was brought in to sure up their run defense. Matt Skura and Marshall Yanda will bear that challenge in the Bills base defense as the Ravens should look to establish Alex Collins early.
The Bills were very successful in taking the ball away last year, taking the ball away 25 times. They did so with a strong secondary, featuring Tre’Davious White and the newly acquired Vontae Davis. I imagine White will be on the speedster Brown, while Davis checks Crabtree’s short and intermediate routes.
Without rookie tight end, Hayden Hurst, it may be difficult to take advantage of the middle of the field. Tight Ends Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams may not have the burst to challenge the Bills linebackers, most notably rookie first round pick, Tremaine Edmunds. Instead, I would anticipate more 3 wide receiver looks with Willie Snead attacking from the slot and the tight ends operating as safety valves in the flat. If the Bills can get pressure on Flacco with their front four, it will be a long day with their fast secondary and athletic linebacking corps.
Bills Offense vs. Ravens Defense: On paper, this looks like the mismatch the Ravens were hoping for to start the season. The Bills with start Nathan Peterman at quarterback, who had his struggles last year. It would be foolish to discount him right off the bat, he’s had a pretty impressive preseason. I don’t expect this day to go particularly well for Peterman, I think the Ravens defense is too talented to wilt to a young quarterback, especially at home.
Perhaps the bigger news for the Bills is that LeSean McCoy was ruled eligible to play in Week 1 against the Ravens. He and backup Chris Ivory, who has given the Ravens problems in the past, should see a heavy workload to try to ease the pressure off of Peterman. Unfortunately for the Bills, their offensive line is still reeling from Richie Incognito‘s suspension. First-year defensive coordinator, Wink Martindale, can finally get as aggressive as he wants, and will bring additional pressure in passing situations. The Bills feature one of the weaker wide receiver corps in the league, so the Ravens corners should have their way, even with Jimmy Smith suspended.
I think the Ravens defense will have a big day, much like in Week 1 of last season. I’ll predict Tim Williams‘ first career sack and interceptions by Eric Weddle and Marlon Humphrey. Tony Jefferson will also settle into a play-making role and prove vital in stopping the run.
Special Teams: The Ravens are better than the Bills pretty much across the board when it comes to special teams. In 2017, they gained more and allowed fewer yards on kick and punt returns. Justin Tucker should be All-Pro level again and Sam Koch will continue to drive punt returners crazy. If the offense stalls, the Ravens special teams will fairly consistently bail them out and put the defense in the position to succeed.
The Ravens are going to blow the Bills out at home. The Ravens are better at nearly every position group, maybe not running back. The defense can win every matchup, especially with a struggling offensive line and Peterman at quarterback. McCoy’s elusiveness is the only offensive threat the Bills possess, but the Ravens can corral him with gap integrity and sure tackling. The Bills defense may pose more of a challenge, but Flacco’s comfort in the offense should wear them down and pour it on late. If Lamar Jackson makes an appearance, it will not be in a gimmick role. If he enters the game, he’ll relieve Flacco at quarterback once the game is out of hand. The Ravens run away with this one and start the 2018 season in The Win Column. Ravens 31, Bills 13.