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Scouting Report - Week 1: Bills vs. Ravens


Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Kelvin Benjamin vs. Marlon Humphrey
Benjamin is likely to move around a lot over the course of the game, but he'll initially line up against the Ravens former first-round pick. As a rookie in 2017, Humphrey had the fourth-lowest passer rating against in the league (49.6).

2 - Ryan Groy vs. Michael Pierce DT Brandon Williams is the more familiar name on Baltimore's defensive front, but the Ravens nose tackle is the immovable object. Pierce was ranked as the top interior defensive lineman in the league in the preseason.

3 – Kyle Williams vs. Marshal Yanda Anytime a pair of veteran Pro Bowler linemen square off it's usually an entertaining matchup. Williams and Yanda are two lunch pail players who bring it on every snap. We'll see if Williams' passing down scheming can get the best of Yanda and company up front.


Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Punt return
Buffalo brings an underrated returner into the mix in Marcus Murphy, who averaged a robust 14 yards per return in the preseason. If there was one area where Baltimore was far from top notch it was punt coverage where they allowed more than 11 yards per return.

Best advantage – Red zone offense As stout as the Ravens are on defense they were average defending their red zone this preseason, allowing touchdowns half the time (8-16). Buffalo's red zone attack has viable weapons that are size mismatches in the form of WRs Kelvin Benjamin (6-5) and Andre Holmes (6-5) and TE Logan Thomas (6-6). Buffalo converted touchdowns in the red zone better than 61 percent of the time in the preseason.

Bills Number 1 Must
Spread the field
Trying to mash at the line with the Baltimore defense and run the ball is a formula that hasn't worked in the past against a formidable Ravens front. Buffalo will need to flood the field with passing targets and force Baltimore's defenders to play in space. Yes, the Ravens led the league in takeaways last season, but getting Buffalo's playmakers out in space is a necessity if they are to extend drives and stay on schedule in terms of down and distance.

Check out photos of the Bills, as the team prepares to take on the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday in a Week 1 AFC matchup.

Scouting Eye
New defensive play caller
No one needs to inform the avid football fan that Baltimore has a strong defensive unit. The Ravens have had that for years. But now they have a new defensive coordinator in Don Martindale, the team's former linebackers coach. Martindale inherits a unit that posted three shutouts last season and finished sixth in points allowed. The 3-4 defensive front remains intact for the Ravens, but under Martindale there is greater freedom for players to change plays and alignments on the field on the fly. Multiple fronts could be employed a lot more through the course of a game under Martindale.

Top corner missing One key player the Ravens defense will be without on Sunday is top cornerback Jimmy Smith. Smith is serving a four-game league-imposed suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Set to start in Smith's place at right cornerback is Marlon Humphrey.

Perfect preseason Baltimore had an extra game in the preseason due to their participation in the Hall of Fame game this summer, but it didn't impact their success rate. The Ravens finished the preseason a perfect 5-0. They won a pair of close games each by a point and they won handily too with their other three wins all coming by 10 points or more.

Package player Rookie QB Lamar Jackson might be listed third on the depth chart behind veteran Joe Flacco and free agent pickup Robert Griffin III, but it doesn't mean he'll be inactive on Sunday when the Ravens host the Bills. There is a heavy belief that Jackson will be featured in a package of offensive plays to take advantage of his unique athleticism. Whether he lines up at QB or splits out wide or lines up deeper in the backfield, Jackson has dynamic playmaking ability with the ball in his hands that goes beyond that of a traditional QB. How much Baltimore is ready to put that into action remains to be seen.

Watch the block When it comes to special teams, Baltimore annually ranks high in several categories. Though K Justin Tucker is a big reason why, their field goal block and punt return units have had a hand in it as well. Since 2014, the Ravens have the second-most blocked kicks in the NFL with a total of 13. Knowing the Bills will have a new holder and punter in Corey Bojorquez, one has to believe the Ravens specialists will be aggressive with the rookie.

Buffalo Chips
Quote of the week

"This offseason I just put the extra work in. People take a lot of shots at running backs who are 30-years old and it's always a question. So it was something else to drive me. It got added onto chasing different things, yardage, wins, you name it, whatever it is I always try to find something to get me going. This offseason I credit that as my motivation in pushing myself."
--RB LeSean McCoyStat of the week With a win against Baltimore, Sean McDermott can become the first coach in franchise history to win his first two Kickoff Weekend matchups.

Milestones in reach Kelvin Benjamin needs one touchdown catch for the 20th touchdown reception of his career.

Jerry Hughes will reach 100 consecutive game appearances when he takes the field on Sunday.

With 100 rushing yards Sunday, LeSean McCoy can tie Fred Jackson for third place in team history with 15, 100-yard rushing games.

Final note Since 2013, the only NFL starting quarterback with a lower passer rating than Joe Flacco (82.1) is Jacksonville's Blake Bortles (80.8).

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