This week the 2-1 Baltimore Ravens travel to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo to face the 1-2 Bills Sunday at 1 p.m.
Rumor has it, if there’s time, the players are holding out hope that coach Harbaugh will allow a stop at Buffalo Wild Wings for a delicious team meal.
BWW is a little known, locals’ favorite establishment that has stuck to its roots by continuing to offer fine quality organic cuisine at affordable prices, and not franchising into every shopping center across the country, serving food not fit to be thrown in a dumpster, and barraging TV viewers with mindless commercials like you see all too often these days.
Just ask former Ravens and Bills running back Willis McGahee. McGahee nearly refused his trade to the Ravens back in 2007 in order to remain close to his favorite hangout. What a place!
Here are some keys to the game:
As the unquestioned leader of a young receiving corps with many new pieces, third-year speedster Torrey Smith appears to be embracing his role with broad shoulders, strong hands, and earlier than expected veteran leadership. That’s been Torrey’s mantra throughout his life, on and off the field.
Each year so far in his young career, Smith has looked stronger and more polished as a pass catcher, a testament to the hard work he puts into the offseason. This season he’s been showing the toughness to go across the middle of the field and concentration to make tough catches with little space and a defender dragging him to the ground.
But, despite his 16 catches for 279 yards through the first three games, Smith has not gotten on the board yet. He should have opportunities this week for some deep catches and a touchdown or two against an injury depleted Buffalo Bills secondary.
EJ Manuel in space
Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel has been a bright spot for Buffalo through the early part of the year. He’s averaging 230 pass yards per game, has four touchdowns to one pick, and is completing approximately 60 percent of his throws. Manuel is also considered a dual-threat runner with enough athleticism and wheels to make a defense pay if he gets into space.
The Ravens' defense has tightened up after the Week 1 Peyton debacle and has not allowed a touchdown since. They are ocean-deep along the defensive line and after making substitutions in the secondary, look strong there as well.
Jimmy Smith finally looks like a confident, hard-nosed, press corner worthy of a first round draft pick, and James Ihedigbo’s speed and sure tackling give him a chance of becoming one of the premiere safeties in the NFL.
Manuel could have his hands full with this group. Historically, Ravens defenses enjoy rookie quarterbacks and properly welcoming them to the next level.
First quarter in the books
Pro coaches like to divide the 16-game season into quarters for the purpose of compartmentalizing an attainable set of challenges and not making the marathon length of the year seem too daunting.
With a win this week, Baltimore would finish the first quarter of the season at 3-1. If you finish each quarter at 3-1, you end up with a strong record and almost always make the postseason. I’m not sure what it would be exactly, I don’t work for NASA.
With an offense continuing to find its footing, a need for improving the ground game, and a stout, chipped-shoulder defense beginning to look like past purple fronts of fury, the 2013 Ravens have a big opportunity to enter the 2nd quarter on a strong note.