4 Downs: Will Ravens WRs make an impact vs. Bills?
It's time to peer into the crystal ball once again and see what will -- or won't -- happen in Buffalo on Sunday...
1. Ray Rice won't play.
Ray Rice (hip flexor) returned to practice this week but the Ravens have been noncommittal about his availability for Sunday. He is listed as questionable. The Ravens said they will gauge how he feels after warming up, but in terms of the long haul, he would benefit from an extra week of rest.
2. Bernard Pierce will have at least 20 carries.
Pierce had a career-high 24 carries last week and has shown he can shoulder the load in the running game. Pierce is the Ravens' only healthy back, with both Rice and No. 3 back Shaun Draughn (ankle) listed as questionable. So this will be the Bernard Pierce show again this week.
3. The Ravens will rush for more than 125 yards.
The Ravens running game needs a boost, and the Bills defense just might be the answer. The Ravens rank 25th in the league with 77.3 rushing yards a game, and their average carry of 2.6 yards is better than only woeful Jacksonville. The Bills, though, allow 155 rushing yards a game. Pierce looked tentative in his first start last week, but look for him to attack this week, and the Ravens ground game finally gets going.
4. The Ravens will have at least three 20+ pass plays.
The Ravens have had just three completions of 20 or more yards this season, and quarterback Joe Flacco said this week that, "We still have to take chances." Flacco and the Ravens face a banged-up Bills secondary that will be missing cornerbacks Stephen Gilmore (wrist) and Don Brooks (foot). And cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) is questionable. Look for Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown to have chances downfield.
5. Dallas Clark will catch a touchdown.
Clark is looking more and more comfortable in the Ravens offense and caught four passes last week. Flacco has always liked looking to the tight end near the goal line, and he'll look Clark's way again. Clark dropped a would-be touchdown at Denver, but he will find the end zone against the Bills.
6. The Bills will have fewer rushing yards than the Ravens.
The Ravens rushing offense has struggled, but its run defense has been outstanding, ranking fourth in the league (74.7 yards allowed a game). In addition to having Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the Bills present a different threat with quarterback E.J. Manuel and the read option, but the Ravens have been stout against the run and that will continue.
7. E.J. Manuel will be sacked at least four times.
After watching film of the Jets sack Manuel eight times last weekend, the Ravens will bring the heat to try to rattle the rookie quarterback. The Ravens have 11 sacks in the first three games, and the front seven will continue to wreak havoc, whether that's Elvis Dumervil or Terrell Suggs coming off the edge or Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones and others blowing up the pocket.
8. Daryl Smith will lead the team in tackles.
All the talk about party buses and Ray Lewis chirping about the lack of leadership on this team masks one fact: Daryl Smith has quietly and effectively taken over Lewis' role in the middle of the Ravens defense. Smith had the play of the game last week with the interception return touchdown and leads the Ravens with 25 tackles. Expect to hear his name called a lot once again.
9. The Ravens will win the turnover battle.
Joe Flacco hasn't been spectacular, but he hasn't thrown an interception in the past two games. E.J. Manuel has thrown just one interception in 108 passes this year, and the Bills are sitting at +2 in turnover margin. But the Ravens pressure is going to be a factor, and the way Jimmy Smith has elevated his play, don't be surprised to see him come up with a big turnover.
10. Ravens 27, Bills 16
The Ravens have a well-documented history of playing down to subpar competition on the road. (See Jackonsville, 2011, or Kansas City, 2012). The Bills are at home, and they nearly beat the Patriots, but the Ravens are the better team. The Ravens running game finally gets off the ground, the defense continues to stand tall and the Ravens move to 3-1. Then they all climb aboard a party bus with Sweet Pea for the ride home (OK, maybe not...).