The Ravens will host the Bills for the Week 1 opener on Sunday. Baltimore is currently favored by a touchdown and won the most recent meeting between these franchises 13-7 in 2016. Buffalo has won four of ten games as a medium sized underdog over the last three seasons, meanwhile John Harbaugh’s Ravens have won five of six September games and 11 of 16 homes games during the same period.
All trends appear to forecast a comfortable win for Baltimore, yet the point total of 41 is the lowest of any game on the schedule this week. The Ravens should dominate an underwhelming Bills squad if they win these five key matchups:
OLB Terrell Suggs vs LT Dion Dawkins
Buffalo’s offensive line is rather questionable, mostly due to their new personnel on the interior. However, Dawkins came on strong as a rookie last year. His play over the second half of the season indicates he is one of the best young tackles in the NFL.
On the other side of the ball, Suggs is aiming to maintain his top notch play entering his 16th season. If Suggs or situational speed rusher Tim Williams can provide pressure from the blindside, Nathan Peterman can be rattled. The quarterback threw an interception on more than 10-percent of his attempts last year.
WR John Brown vs CB Tre’Davious White
John Brown is poised to be the Ravens prime playmaker this season. His ability to stretch the field with elite speed provides a crucial vertical element. Joe Flacco will likely target Brown on several deep shots in this contest.
The strength of this Bills roster is clearly their secondary. White, along with fellow corner Vontae Davis and safety Micah Hyde do have the talent to stifle a passing game that did not receive much work in the preseason. Buffalo will have to eliminate chunk plays in order to stay within striking distance on the road.
LB C.J. Mosley vs RB LeSean McCoy
‘Shady’ McCoy’s career has outlasted his peers as the rare running back who remains the centerpiece of his offense after signing a second contract. He has recorded eight straight seasons with more than 1,100 yards from scrimmage. Nonetheless, 2018 could be the year the now 30-year-old back’s production falls off a cliff.
Entering a contract year, Mosley is well-equipped to neutralize LeSean. New coordinator Don Martindale will surely stack the box with space eating defensive lineman, allowing Mosley the freedom to chase down the ballcarrier. The Ravens defense held McCoy to 3.6 yards per carry and 70 total yards in their last matchup
C Matt Skura vs DT Star Lotulelei
Assuming the Ravens are able to handle the Bills offense, they will opt for a run-first offensive game plan. Obviously, that starts up front with the new center Skura, who has had trouble holding his ground in the preseason. Baltimore needs a serviceable outing from Matt in order to jumpstart Alex Collins on the ground.
Buffalo signed Lotulelei to a 5-year, $50 million contract in the offseason despite a down year for Carolina in 2017. He does have some ability to penetrate into the backfield, which could set up unfavorable down and distances for offensive coordinator Mornhinweg. Blocking Lotulelei without requiring a double team would unlock the Ravens offensive potential.
CB Brandon Carr vs WR Kelvin Benjamin
Benjamin is certainly not in the elite tier of wideouts in the league, but he was productive for the Panthers, posting nearly 2,000 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns combined during his two full seasons in Carolina. He is difficult to defend solely due to his massive size.
With Jimmy Smith serving a suspension to begin the season, the physical veteran Carr is the best option to cover this giant receiver. Second-year corner Marlon Humphrey has many strengths, defending jump balls downfield is not one of them. Effective press coverage from Carr on Benjamin should allow the Ravens stable of pass rushers to rack up sacks.
Score prediction: Ravens 19, Bills 6