Scouting Report

Ravens Vs. Bills

Nfl Preview: M& T Bank Stadium, 1 P.m., Ch. 13

October 24, 2004|By Jamison Hensley

Ravens run offense vs. Bills run defense: With Jamal Lewis serving a two-game suspension from the league, the Ravens will turn to backup Chester Taylor. The third-year back doesn't have the breakaway speed of Lewis but he can hit the cutback lanes quickly because of his excellent vision and strong, short bursts. The Ravens' offensive line is motivated to show it has as much to do with the NFL's second-ranked running game as Lewis does. Buffalo has the fifth-best defense against the run because of space-eating tackles Sam Adams and Pat Williams. That has allowed middle linebacker London Fletcher to run free and record a team-leading 56 tackles. But Miami's Sammy Morris gained 91 yards against the Bills last week.

EDGE: EVEN

Ravens pass offense vs. Bills pass defense: Kyle Boller ranks near the bottom of the NFL in quarterback rating (61.3) and yards per attempt (5.9). He gets some help with the return of receiver Travis Taylor, who has been sidelined with a groin injury since the opener. The Ravens will start Taylor and Kevin Johnson but could use more three-wide formations to include Randy Hymes, the team's leading receiver. Tight end Todd Heap will miss his fourth straight game with a sprained ankle. Buffalo has a middle-of-the pack pass defense because it has had to deal with injuries to cornerback Troy Vincent (knee) and safety Lawyer Milloy. After being sidelined two months with a broken forearm, Milloy is expected to return today.

EDGE: BILLS

Bills run offense vs. Ravens run defense: The Ravens have held four of their five opponents under 110 yards rushing as a team. Take away the performance by Kansas City's Priest Holmes (125 yards rushing) and running backs have averaged 3.2 yards a carry against the Ravens this season. Running back Travis Henry is expected to return to the starting lineup, although he is questionable with a sprained left foot. He is excellent in terms of vision, patience and toughness between the tackles but has been prone to fumbling. On the road, Henry is averaging 3.0 yards a carry (100 yards on 33 attempts). Ross Tucker replaces injured Trey Teague at center for an average Buffalo line.

EDGE: RAVENS

Bills pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: The difference here is whether the Ravens can put pressure on quarterback Drew Bledsoe. He has been sacked 49 times in his past 14 road games (3 1/2 per game) but has the arm and experience to beat teams deep. Eric Moulds has caught 31 of Bledsoe's 79 completions, and rookie Lee Evans has averaged 24.8 yards per reception. The Ravens have held three of their past four opponents under 50 percent completion rate. Terrell Suggs has 17 sacks in 21 career games.

EDGE: RAVENS

Special teams: With two top-10 defenses, field position could play a big role. The Ravens have the advantage on punt returns, with B.J. Sams (NFL-leading 14.8-yard average and two touchdowns) over Nate Clements (7.0). But the Bills have the edge in punting, with Brian Moorman (43.7-yard average) over Dave Zastudil (40.4). The coverage teams are a wash. The Ravens' Wade Richey, who nearly has as many touchbacks (five) as kickoffs out of bounds (three), needs to demonstrate better control.

EDGE: EVEN

Intangibles: Remove a couple of losses to Kansas City and the Ravens haven't dropped a home game since Dec. 22, 2002, against Cleveland. The Bills are 2-12 in their past 14 road games. Buffalo won't be as desperate, having picked up its first win of the season last week. With formidable road games at Philadelphia, the New York Jets and New England looming, the Ravens know they can't afford to lose at home.

EDGE: RAVENS

Prediction: The Bills are one of the few teams that have struggled as mightily on offense as the Ravens. First one to double digits wins.

RAVENS, 19-9

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