Following an undefeated preseason, the Ravens are looking to hit the ground running in Week 1. Taking on the Buffalo Bills at home, Baltimore is presented with a good opportunity to begin the 2018 regular season on a high note.
Other than the fluid situation on the offensive line, the starters on both sides of the ball are unlikely to change between now and Sunday - barring any injuries.
Joe Flacco and Alex Collins headline the first-team offense, which performed well in limited action during the preseason. So too did the defense, which is led once again by Terrell Suggs, C.J Mosley and several other notable playmakers.
Looking to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014, a convincing Week 1 victory against Buffalo would be an excellent starting point. How will some of the Ravens key players perform?
Joe Flacco – 19/30, 63.3% comp, 224 yards, 7.4 YPA, 2 TD, 0 INT
Coming off a strong preseason showing, Flacco should be set up for an impressive home opener. The Bills secondary allowed roughly 230 passing yards per game last season, which ranked just 20th in the NFL. They were even worse in terms of completion percentage, where they placed 25th.
Given the friendly match up and home-field advantage, expect Flacco to have a relatively accurate, mistake-free day. He may not have to throw too much, however, as there is a good chance Baltimore jumps out to a sizeable lead early.
Alex Collins – 18 attempts, 72 yards, 4.0 YPC, 1 TD // 2 receptions, 17 yards
In addition to their struggles in the defensive backfield, Buffalo also had difficulty stopping the run last season. They gave up an average of 4.3 YPC and 124.6 rushing yards per game, both of which placed in the bottom half of the league.
Unlike last season, Collins begins this year as the unquestioned lead back. He only received three carries in the preseason and should be fresh come Sunday. If Baltimore can get out to a good start offensively and maintain the lead, then they will look to control the tempo by running the ball.
Regardless of the game flow, Collins figures to see a heavy workload and should find running room against a porous Buffalo run defense. There is a solid chance he finds the end zone too.
62.5% (20-of-32) of the offensive touchdowns scored against Buffalo last season were by opposing running backs, the highest rate in the league. Alex Collins' 6 ruTD post week 10 bye when he took over as the starter were tied for the league lead.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) September 4, 2018
Michael Crabtree – 5 receptions, 62 yards, 12.4 YPC, 1 TD
Crabtree figures to be shadowed by Tre’Davious White for much of the game. White is a talented, second-year player who was the fifth highest-graded cornerback by Pro Football Focus last season. He could make things tough on Crabtree throughout the contest.
While he may not rack up a lot of yardage, Crabtree should still find ways to get involved. Flacco will look his way early and often, and a high-volume of targets should equal a solid stat line for Crabtree.
John Brown – 4 receptions, 69 yards, 17.3 YPC
Outside of White, the Bills lack many playmakers in the secondary. Crabtree will garner most of the attention, which could set up a productive day for John “Smokey” Brown.
Brown has generated a lot of hype this offseason, reaping the praise of coaches and teammates alike. Him and Flacco have developed a solid rapport throughout training camp, and we saw it on display in the preseason matchup against the Colts.
John Brown with the #ToeDragSwag TD! #BALvsIND— NFL (@NFL) August 21, 2018
cc: @Nate13Burleson pic.twitter.com/9dSvT3Vpag
Brown possesses elite speed and big-play ability, much like many of the Baltimore receivers before him such as Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace. He should find himself open for several big chunks of yardage on Sunday.
Willie Snead IV – 4 receptions, 42 yards, 10.5 YPC
Snead, the other newcomer at the wide receiver position, should also be involved in his regular season debut as a Raven. His ability to make plays in the slot will prove valuable, particularly on intermediate routes and third-down conversions.
He is not much of a red zone or big-play threat, but Snead should find space to make plays over the middle of the field given the Bills’ suspect coverage.
Defensive Statistics: 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 4 sacks
After tying for the league-lead in takeaways in 2017 with 38, Baltimore picked up where they left off this preseason. The Ravens ranked first in both sacks and interceptions in five exhibition contests, and this trend should continue Sunday.
The Ravens defense surely would have enjoyed welcoming Josh Allen to the NFL, but facing Nathan Peterman is arguably an even more inviting match up. Peterman will be under pressure all day, and Baltimore should easily force him into mistakes.
Suggs and Judon, along with the other pass-rushers on defense, will have no issue getting to the quarterback. Expect another disruptive performance from the defense behind an energized M&T Bank Stadium.