The Ravens are coming off their best game of the season, a 30-9 drubbing of the Houston Texans. Baltimore is 2-1 on the season, although its best football may still be ahead. Offensively, the Ravens have struggled and are 30th in the league in yards. The defense has been better, although there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Buffalo is 1-2, although the Bills are just a few plays away from being 3-0. All three of their games have been decided by a touchdown or less, including last week's 27-20 loss to the New York Jets. Running the ball and stopping the run is a recipe for success for many teams in the NFL. With C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the Bills have no issues running the ball. Stopping the run, however, is an entirely different story.
Sunday's game will be the just the third meeting between the teams since 2007. The teams have split their last six contests, dating back to 1995.
Meet the Bills
All three of the Bills' games this season have come down to the final possession. Buffalo lost on a last-second field goal against New England in Week 1 before winning on a touchdown pass with two seconds to play against Carolina in Week 2. It had a few chances to tie the game against the Jets, but was unable to mount a drive. The game ended with EJ Manuel failing to spike a ball in time for one last play.
Jackson and Spiller give the Bills a solid 1-2 punch, and Buffalo is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards. Manuel has been solid, even if not flashy. He's protected the ball and thrown just one interception thus far. The Bills are one of 13 teams in the league with a positive turnover differential.
The biggest issue early on has been the run defense. The Bills are allowing 155 rushing yards per game, 30th in the league. Bilal Powell set a career-high against the Buffalo with 149 rushing yards. The Bills are slightly better in yards per carry with their 4.3 YPC allowed, 22nd in the NFL.
Ray Rice missed last week's game for the Ravens and may not be 100 percent this week. His health could be a major factor.
Meet the Ravens
The Ravens will enter Week 4 riding high, coming off a solid win against a good Texans team. The Ravens' offense didn't play especially well against Houston, but the defense and special teams made up for it with a pair of touchdowns.
After some issues in the season opener against Denver, the Ravens defense has settled down over the last two weeks. Baltimore allowed six points against Cleveland before limiting the Texans to three field goals. Daryl Smith has been an excellent addition at linebacker, and James Ihedigbo is playing well at safety.
While the defense is coming together, the offense still has some work to do. The Ravens are averaging 308.3 yards per game, down nearly 50 yards from the 325.5 yards they averaged last season. The passing yardage is nearly the same as it was last year, with the difference being a decline in the rushing attack. Baltimore is averaging 77.3 rushing yards per game, down from 118.8 a year ago. Rice missed last week due to a hip injury and Bernard Pierce averaged just 2.7 yards per attempt in his absence.
Local Takes: Buffalo
Buffalo has had major issues stopping the run this season. Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings broke down some of the issues on film:
The answers are above, and to the surprise of no one, they deal largely in poor contain, a lack of gap discipline and, yes, some nifty play design on the part of the New York Jets in one case. Flip through the gallery above (and hover on each photo) for a look with descriptions at what went wrong for the Bills' run defense in Sunday's 27-20 road loss.
Local Takes: Baltimore
James Ihedigbo wasn't expected to be a starter.
But the strong safety that came to Baltimore a year ago proved a lot of prognosticators wrong by winning the starting job this preseason. Ihedigbo has gone a step further to where he's now considered one of the leaders in the back end.
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Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Buffalo Rumblings and Baltimore Beatdown, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
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Breaking Down The Tandon Doss Punt Return http://t.co/LLCulQZAwn— Baltimore Beatdown (@BMoreBeatdown) September 25, 2013
@mikerodak -- Bills beat writer
@RavensInsider -- Ravens beat writer
Baltimore is a slight favorite among SB Nation's NFL crew. Ryan Van Bibber, Joel Thorman and Jason Chilton picked the Ravens, while Stephen White and David Fucillo picked Buffalo.
The Ravens opened as a 3-point favorite, despite being on the road. According to OddsShark, the total opened at 44 points.
Buffalo will play its second of three straight games against the AFC North when they travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns.
Baltimore will go back on the road, this time traveling to Miami with a game against the Dolphins.