A Game Of Many Firsts
The Ravens have a lot of players who saw their 2015 season end early by injuries. That means Baltimore also has a lot of big returns at the start of 2016. Quarterback Joe Flacco (knee), linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles), wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles), tight end Dennis Pitta (hip, 2014) and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) are among those playing in their first full games since injury. Smith and Pitta didn't see any preseason action. It will be Perriman's first regular-season NFL game. For many, emotions will be running high when taking the field. Since they're all key figures, they'll need to show the injuries are behind them and contribute.
Ravens' Young Offensive Line
Buffalo Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan said he's never seen two rookies starting on an offensive line to start their careers. He could witness it Sunday as Ravens first-round pick Ronnie Stanley will start at left tackle and fourth-round pick Alex Lewis could get the start at left guard. Expect Ryan, who relishes putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, to test the rookies' composure, knowledge and communication. The Ravens have been working on picking up blitzes and twists all week long in preparation.
Tyrod Taylor's Legs
The Ravens gave up too many yards to quarterbacks on the ground in the preseason. The Colts' Andrew Luck and Lions' Matthew Stafford both escaped the pocket to move the chains. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor is significantly faster and tougher to bring down than either of them. The Ravens believe Taylor likes to extend plays to throw, but he can also run it (he finished second among quarterbacks in rushing yards last year). Baltimore needs to keep containment. Some Ravens defenders know well what Taylor is capable of considering they practiced against him for four years.
New Sources Of Pass Rush
With Elvis Dumervil (foot) out, the Ravens will miss their leading sack artist of the past two seasons. That means Baltimore must find pressure from other sources to help Suggs. Za'Darius Smith and rookies Matthew Judon and Kamalei Correa could step into larger roles. Judon was particularly impressive in the preseason. While the Ravens want to get after Taylor, they also can't over pursue (see No. 3).
Secondary With New Leader Eric Weddle
The Ravens signed safety Eric Weddle to orchestrate the back end of the defense, make plays and cut down on deep pass completions. In his first regular-season game as a Raven, all eyes will be on him. With Taylor under center and Sammy Watkins at wide receiver, the Bills have the potential for big plays. Baltimore's starting secondary had some stumbles in the first two preseason games, and Sunday's game will be the first chance to see if it's ironed out.