After a disastrous season-opening shellacking, the Baltimore Ravens are making strides toward resembling the team that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy earlier this calendar year. The Ravens look to build off a pair of dominating defensive efforts on Sunday when they visit western New York to face the Buffalo Bills. Baltimore posted a 14-6 win over Cleveland in Week 2 before hammering Houston to the tune of a 30-9 decision last weekend.
The victory over Cleveland came at a price as Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice injured his hip and sat out last week, although he is expected to play versus Buffalo. The Bills' backfield also survived a scare as talented rusher C.J. Spiller has been full participant in practice despite tweaking his quad in last week's 27-20 loss to the New York Jets. To add insult to injury, the Bills were unable to capitalize on 20 penalties en route to suffering their second loss to an AFC East rival.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Ravens -3. O/U: 44
ABOUT THE RAVENS (2-1): With just three passing touchdowns, Joe Flacco hasn't provided much bang for the buck after signing his gaudy six-year, $120.6 million deal in the offseason - although he could pay dividends against a battered Buffalo secondary. Assuming the unquestioned lead role after Anquan Boldin's departure to San Francisco, Torrey Smith has the speed to take advantage of ailing cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and free safety Jairus Byrd (plantar fasciitis). Rice and Bernard Pierce have struggled to get untracked as Baltimore's 2.6 rushing yards per carry is second-to-last in the league.
ABOUT THE BILLS (1-2): Spiller is averaging nearly two full yards fewer per carry (3.55) than his previous 46 contests (5.38) while veteran Fred Jackson's team-leading 169 yards are aided by one 59-yard scamper. Rookie E.J. Manuel could do both a favor by keeping the Ravens honest, but the dual-threat quarterback has struggled in the face of opposing defenses stacking the box. "When they're bringing the house at you, it's a tough thing to deal with - but nonetheless you have to deal with it," Manuel said.
1. Manuel's growing pains aside, Buffalo WR Stevie Johnson has found the end zone in two of the team's three games. Johnson collected eight receptions for a career-high 158 yards and a touchdown versus Ravens in 2010.
2. Flacco threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns in Baltimore's 37-34 triumph over Buffalo in the teams' last meeting on Oct. 24, 2010.
3. Buffalo DE Mario Williams (4 1/2 sacks) will be matched up against Baltimore OT Michael Oher.
PREDICTION: Ravens 17, Bills 14