Ravens at Bills: Key matchups to watch

Ravens at Bills: Key matchups to watch
September 28, 2013, 10:15 am
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How the Ravens Dean Pees prepares for the Bills

(Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports)

Ravens at Bills, key matchups to watch

1. Ravens cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith vs. Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson Webb is the Ravens’ best cover guy, looking fully recovered from knee surgery. Smith is finally playing consistent football, showing the promise the Ravens saw when they made him a first-round pick. But defending Johnson is difficult. He runs excellent routes and is the Bills’ go-to receiver. If the Ravens shut him down, it’s hard to picture the Bills winning.

2. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco vs. Bills secondary

The Bills have given up too many big plays already, and cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Jairus Byrd are both banged up. Neither will be 100 percent, if they play at all. Expect the Ravens to send Torrey Smith deep a few times to see if they can strike quickly.

3. Ravens pass rush vs. Bills offensive line The Bills gave up eight sacks in Week 3 against the Jets. Ravens sack artists Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have to believe they can do damage against the Bills’ front. However, Bills rookie quarterback E. J. Manuel does have mobility. When the Ravens get pressure on Manuel, it will be important for them to keep him in the pocket.

4. Ravens run defense vs. Bills read option. The Ravens have only allowed two runs of 10 yards or more this season. That is the fewest in the NFL. However, the Bills have big-play potential when Manuel runs the read option, especially when he hands off to C. J. Spiller with his explosive speed. Spiller also has an excellent backup in Fred Jackson. The Ravens must be disciplined defensively, or the read option will cause them problems.

5. Ravens offensive line vs. Bills defensive end Mario Williams It has been feast or famine for Williams this season. All of his 4½ sacks came in one game, against the Panthers. Williams may draw double-team attention from the Ravens, because he can be a disruptive force. It will be important for the Ravens to avoid obvious passing situations, when Williams can really tee off on getting to Flacco.