Scouting report

October 31, 1999|By Mike Preston

Ravens run offense vs. Bills run defense - EDGE - EVEN

The Ravens match up fairly well with the Bills, who are one of the few teams that still use a 3-4 defense. The key to the running game is how well Ravens center Jeff Mitchell can handle nose tackle Ted Washington and backup Pat Williams, and if left guard Everett Lindsay can get to right inside linebacker Sam Cowart, the Bills' top tackler with 86.

Ravens pass offense vs. Bills pass defense - BILLS EDGE

The Bills don't have cornerbacks as athletic as Kansas City, which attacked the Ravens' receivers at the line of scrimmage. But at the same time, Ken Irvin and Thomas Smith are solid cornerbacks who don't give up big plays and get ample support from safeties Henry Jones and Kurt Schulz. The Ravens will have to take advantage of the Bills' nickel coverage and pick on rookie cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was victimized last week by Seattle's Derrick Mayes for six catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

Bills run offense vs. Ravens run defense - RAVENS EDGE

The Bills have the No. 7 run offense in the league, averaging 122.6 yards a game, but that's misleading because quarterback Doug Flutie has rushed for 262 yards on 40 attempts, a lot of those from scrambling. Two matchups the Ravens need and should be able to win are left end Rob Burnett vs. right tackle Robert Hicks and left tackle Larry Webster vs. right guard Dusty Zeigler, the Bills' weakest offensive lineman.

Bills pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense - EVEN

The Ravens will be able to get pressure on Flutie, but the question is whether they can contain him. Despite so-so stats, he is having a great season without much of a supporting cast due to injuries. Cornerbacks DeRon Jenkins and Chris McAlister should be able to match up with Buffalo's receivers. Andre Reed is slowing down because of age and Peerless Price is having a typical, inconsistent rookie season. Look for the Bills to try to work a lot of underneath stuff.

Special teams - EVEN

If the game is on the line, take Bills kicker Steve Christie over the Ravens' Matt Stover. Christie is 12-for-16, Stover 9-for-13, but Christie is 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts over 50 yards. The Ravens have an edge in punting as far as distance, but Chris Mohr gets better hang time than Kyle Richardson, which results in a lot of fair catches. There is also the potential for Ravens kickoff returner Corey Harris to have a productive day because Buffalo is allowing opponents 23.3 yards a kickoff.

Intangibles - RAVENS - EDGE

The Ravens are 1-2 at home this season and would like to avoid losing two straight. The team will also get a boost with Banks in the lineup. Buffalo has lost two straight and another loss would do damage to their psyche and playoff hopes. But the Bills have Flutie, who makes up for any other holes the Bills have.

Prediction - BILLS EDGE

Mediocrity is in vogue in the NFL, and Flutie won't need a Hail Mary to pull this one out. Bills, 20-17.

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