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Joe’s Gameplan: Week 1

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An inside look how the Bills can spoil Baltimore’s home opener.

Sunday’s game in Baltimore could be one of the more equally contested matchup on the Bills’ 2016 schedule. While Rex Ryan and Greg Roman are trying to come up with the best plan of action to beat the 2014 Super Bowl Champion Ravens, we couch GMs already know the best strategies, right? “Joe Sarro’s Gameplan” is here.

Raven’s head coach John Harbaugh respects his former second string quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, and he made it well known in his media day conference call.

“He has made himself into an NFL quarterback," Harbaugh said. "His quarterback rating last year was very high (99.4). He did it with his legs, certainly, but that is not to take away what from what he has done with his arm and his mind. He operates an offense extremely well. He manages the game very well. He is an accurate thrower. He makes good decisions. The added element of the fact that is he is probably one of the best athletes in the game just makes him a real weapon."

Even without their best pass-rusher, Terrell Suggs, the Ravens ranked 8th in total yards allowed last season, but they finished 24th in points allowed (25.1 per game) and only five clubs surrendered a higher passer rating. With Suggs entering his 14th season, he still wants to show the world he has something left in the tank.

Up front, Baltimore will have a rookie counterparts in Kamalei Correa and Matt Judon joining Terrell Suggs on the edges. They also have fourth-year nose tackle Brandon Williams who tries to control the middle of the line.

Quick releases should be an essential strategy for the Bills. The Ravens use a great scheme to help get their outside rushers in a one-on-one battle with the offensive tackles. Greg Roman should utilize his zone blocking scheme effectively when running the ball on offense. Pulling the guards and running off-tackle limit Williams’ impact on the interior.

In the secondary, let’s not forget Eric Weddle. His pre-snap disguises and superb play recognition will likely be valuable to the Ravens defensive backfield. Buffalo won’t want Weddle hanging around inside the box, so opening it up with a couple of deep passes to Sammy Watkins should keep him focused elsewhere.

Jimmy Smith will be the cornerback most likely on Watkins. Smith is an underrated asset to Baltimore, but Watkins definitely has the talent to beat and out muscle him. Smith showed his talents in last year’s opener when he displayed plus ball skills to take a pick to the house on a pass by Peyton Manning, as shown below.

Smith is located at the bottom of the screen giving his receiver a nice cushion.

The corner displays great closing speed after reading Manning.

Smith is then able to show his underrated ball skills to deflect the ball in the air and hooks it in for an easy six.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Taylor looks elsewhere on Sunday. Baltimore has serious questions at the second corner position after Ladarius Webb took on more of a safety role for the team. I would look for Robert Woods or Charles Clay to make big impacts.

On the other side of the ball, the main priority of the defense is to control Joe Flacco. The 31-year-old seems to be the only weapon that can really scare Rex Ryan and his defense. Running back Justin Forsett has hit his peak and is on the back end of his career, Steve Smith is hoping to stay healthy for one more year, and Mike Wallace isn’t what he was in Pittsburgh.

There’s one way to stop Flacco from hurting you and that’s blitzing. Seven games into the 2015 season, Flacco held the lowest QB rating in the NFL against the blitz, and his 5.6 yards per attempt against the blitz was 30th among quarterbacks, per ESPN. His first target is typically Steve Smith, and he will lock on that receiver.

Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has a concept, where two wide receivers who are running vertical routes cross. This concept is designed to confuse a defensive back’s zone coverage responsibilities and demands the type of downfield outside-throwing ability Flacco has used to have much success in his career.

Flacco was ineffective in 2015 before being injured for the season. According to Football Outsiders, he finished his year with a DVOA of a -10.5% and a QBR of 40.9 which was well below average.

Here is an example above on 3rd and 7 from Week 1 last season with Steve Smith circled in the slot.

Flacco’s eyes are locked on and loaded on his first decision. In this example, it’s Steve Smith.

As the pocket starts to collapse, Flacco realizes he’s in trouble and starts to scramble.

DeMarcus Ware is able to wrap him up and now its time to celebrate.

Even being three-point underdogs, the Bills have the talent to spoil the Ravens home opener. A game like this could be important down the road when both of these teams are battling for a wild card position. What is your strategy for Buffalo to take down this AFC North foe?

Thanks for reading. Fire away in the comments!