Week 7 brings with it the opportunity for the Baltimore Ravens to build momentum heading into their bye week and also put together a complete game on offense. The Ravens moved the ball well for three quarters in Foxboro, but they could not finish. The Ravens need to fix the play calling/offensive line/QB issues that lead to little productivity in the 4th quarter and overtime and control the game with their offense against a sub-par defensive team in the Buffalo Bills. There was much talk this week about what the cause of the offense’s problems were in New England and why the Ravens have struggled so much against teams when they drop into a cover-2 zone. If I were a betting man, I would wager the Bills will drop into a zone and force Joe Flacco to make some throws he is not comfortable with. This could be a positive for the Ravens as it gives them an opportunity to work against a cover-2 zone that is not as stingy as some they have faced. Here is how I expect the Ravens to attack the Bills on offense:
On the Ground: The Buffalo Bills currently rank last in run defense in the NFL, allowing 182 yards per game. This is huge for the Ravens who will look to pound the life out of the Bills. The Ravens have not been as efficient running the ball in 2010 as was expected. For the most part the Ravens have stuck with the ground game, but are averaging a meager 3.5 yards per carry. Buffalo allows a generous 4.8 per carry and they could be without starting NT Kyle Williams. Ray Rice will get a heavy dose of carries and I would assume that Willis McGahee would work his way back into the rotation after not getting off the bench last week. Strategically, the Ravens should try to mix in more of a screen game, as an extension of the running game, to keep the Bills guessing on defense. The Ravens have used more screens to their wide receivers this year, but I think they will be effective at using screens to members of the backfield this week. I see no reason the Ravens ground game will not push towards 200 yards. The Bills defensive front should give the Ravens o-line few problems this week.
Through the Air: Conversely, against the pass the Buffalo Bills are statistically much better on defense. The Bills rank 10th in the league, allowing 200 yards per game through the air. That being said they have allowed 11 touchdown passes and have only 1 interception on the season. Compounding the Bills problems defending the pass will be the absence of starting corner Terrence McGee. The Bills have a few good corners, but their linebackers and safeties have struggle covered tight ends in the passing game. Look for Todd Heap and possibly Ed Dickson to have good games. So far this year, Flacco has done a good job of spreading the ball around. The Bills may be able to take away a few of the Ravens options in the passing game, but they do not have the personnel to cover all the Ravens receivers and tight ends. Since the running game should be so effective on Sunday, I would also expect the Ravens to feature a lot of play action. The Ravens need to be able to keep as many linebackers as close to the line of scrimmage when facing cover-2’s and zone defenses to open up the middle of the field. If they can pick apart the Bills zone, it could force them out of it and allow the Ravens some shots one-on-one down-field.
Over the last 4 games the Bills 34, 38, 38 and 36 points. I see no reason why the Ravens do not keep up with the Joneses and hang another 30+ points on the win-less Bills. This should also be a week where the Ravens coaching staff can allow Flacco more freedom and responsibility to work within the offense. He needs to be ready to do that if the Ravens are going to go as far as we all hope this season.