COMMENTARY | The Baltimore Ravens travel to Buffalo Sunday to take on the Bills in a matchup that screams "trap" for the Ravens.
To avoid the trap, the Ravens will have to win a couple of key statistics. Here's a look at three statistics that will have a major impact on this game.
Time of Possession
The Ravens struggles on the road often stem from an inability to control the football. Quarterback Joe Flacco often struggles early in road games, producing three-and-outs and forcing the defense into difficult situations.
To avoid that, the Ravens will need to run the ball effective, convert third downs and force the Bills off the field when their offense is faced with third down.
Perhaps the biggest variable in this statistic is the performance of Bills' running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. This is one of the best duos in the NFL, but the Ravens are coming off an impressive performance in which they largely contained Arian Foster and Ben Tate. With a similar defensive showing in Buffalo, the Ravens should be fine in this regard.
Offensively, the Ravens simply need to run the football effectively and convert third downs. That's easy to say, but much harder to do, as the Ravens have shown in recent weeks. Baltimore has struggled to open holes in the ground game, resulting in plenty of third-and-long situations.
Fortunately, Joe Flacco has been excellent on third down this year. For instance, the Ravens converted 50 percent of their third downs against the Texans, most through the air.
Big plays on both sides of the ball are nice, but most important for the Ravens will be the ability to string together drives and make sure the defense is rested and at its physical peak. That means winning the battle in the ground game.
Another sure way to lose on the road, especially for the Ravens, is to give up the football. The Ravens aren't dynamic enough on offense to make up for turnovers, so avoiding mistakes and forcing them on the other side of the ball will be crucial.
Obviously, turnover margin often decides football games. For the Ravens, it takes on a special significance. This is a football team that has lost numerous games in years past solely because of turnovers. A 2011 loss in Seattle comes to mind, in which David Reed fumbled two kickoff returns.
So far, the Ravens have done a fairly good job of avoiding turnovers. Joe Flacco only has thrown two interceptions this year, both in Week 1, but they haven't forced many turnovers either.
The Ravens will look to improve on their turnover margin of zero this week, and doing so should result in an easy win.
Giving up the football, though, could result in an avoidable loss.
Yards per Pass Attempt
The Ravens have been getting by with a largely anemic passing attack. Joe Flacco has been efficient, especially on third downs, but big plays have been few and far between.
Keep an eye on the Ravens deep passing game against the Bills. The Ravens will take several shots against a weakened Buffalo secondary, and failure to connect on them could set the Ravens up with some tough scenarios.
Getting the ground game going would be a huge help, as it would set up the play action deep balls that Torrey Smith thrives on.
Regardless of the ground game, though, this could be the most weakened secondary the Ravens face all year. Failure to spring a few big plays could be indicative of bigger problems in Baltimore, and the other top teams in the AFC will be sure to take notice and capitalize on them.
In sum, the Ravens can win this football and still not connect on some big passing plays. But this will be the Ravens' best opportunity to get the deep ball going all season. Failure to get into a rhythm now may mean the Ravens never will.
Shawn Brubaker is a staff writer for the Cordell Beacon. He was a featured columnist for two years with Bleacher Report, as well as a member of their Breaking News Team. He currently hosts the Ravens Central Radio show, and he is a 2013 graduate of the Catholic University of America.
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