Despite last week’s loss, the Baltimore Ravens seem content with their place in the AFC playoff picture.
With winless Buffalo visiting Sunday, their position is likely to improve.
The Ravens (4-2) are coming off a 23-20 overtime loss at New England in which they let a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead slip away. Still, Baltimore remains a half-game behind AFC North-leading Pittsburgh and is tied for the fourth-best record in the conference.
“You’ve got to move on,” quarterback Joe Flacco(notes) said. “I think we will grow from (the loss); we will get better each week. We have a big game against Buffalo before we go to our bye. We get that win, we go to 5-2 and we are feeling pretty good about where we are.”
Flacco threw for a season-high 285 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots. But after some aggressive play-calling through most of three quarters, coach John Harbaugh chose a run-heavy attack with Ray Rice(notes) which produced only three first downs over the final 24 minutes. New England capitalized and overcame a 20-10 deficit.
“We talked to the team about (the playoffs) last night and again today,” Harbaugh said Monday. “You do get disappointed with the fact that we had an opportunity to go up (to New England) and put ourselves in real good position for a lot of long-term things. But we do have the big picture in mind.
“We need to grow and learn to attack a little bit better. Obviously we could have gone down field more.”
No matter Baltimore’s offensive plans Sunday, it will be facing a new-look Buffalo defense.
Coach Chan Gailey announced last week the Bills (0-5) will switch from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 in hopes of improving their NFL-worst rush defense, which allows 182.4 yards per game.
“We felt like we need to get some bigger people on the field to help us in that respect,” Gailey said. “So, to be honest with you, it’s not a shift of philosophy. It’s a shift in necessity.”
The 4-3 defense gets its first test in stopping Rice, who has rushed for 451 yards and is tied for sixth in the NFL with 115 attempts. The Bills have given up 689 rushing yards over the past three games.
“I think in the grand scheme of things, we would like to say ‘We’re a 3-4 team, and we’re going to stay that way all year round,’” linebacker Paul Posluszny(notes) said. “But it’s part of the deal. We’ll continue to switch up fronts, switch up schemes to make it work for us.”
Buffalo, off to its worst start in 25 years, is working through multiple changes. Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) took the reigns at quarterback in Week 3, leading to the release of previous starter Trent Edwards(notes). The Bills then traded former first-round pick Marshawn Lynch(notes) to Seattle on Oct. 5 despite scoring only one rushing touchdown as a team all season.
“Our focus is trying to win a football game, getting some confidence back, trying to get a feeling of happiness,” receiver Lee Evans(notes) said. “We’re not trying to say there’s nothing bad going on. But if we sat up here and thought about everything bad going on, it would make it real hard to come in.”
One positive is that Fitzpatrick has thrown seven touchdown passes against two interceptions and ranks fourth in quarterback rating at 99.9. He threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-26 loss to Jacksonville in Week 5.
However, Buffalo’s defense isn’t giving him much help. The Bills have allowed 30 points or more in their last four games - the worst stretch in franchise history.
While Baltimore seeks its third consecutive playoff appearance, Buffalo hasn’t made the postseason since losing to Tennessee after the 1999 season in a game since dubbed as the “Music City Miracle”.
This will be the first meeting between these teams since 2007, when the Bills won 19-14 at home.