NFL Nation: 2013 Week 3 QB Watch

QB Watch: Vikings' Christian Ponder

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:40
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A weekly analysis of the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback play:

Ponder
Ponder
Rewind: Christian Ponder went 25-for-42 against the Cleveland Browns, throwing for 228 yards, but once again, the third-year quarterback wasn't able to put four quarters together. He threw for just 63 yards in the second half in the loss to the Browns, missing an open Greg Jennings on a throw that could have put the game away, and got booed on a number of occasions at the Metrodome as the Vikings were unable to put the Browns away. Ponder, as it turns out, was playing with a rib injury he sustained early in the game; he finished the contest, but his status for Sunday's game against the Steelers could be in jeopardy.

Fast-forward: The Pittsburgh Steelers team Ponder would face Sunday isn't the imposing defense he would have seen in previous years, but the Steelers can still throw some confusing looks at Ponder with their 3-4 defense and Troy Polamalu roaming the secondary. Ponder might get some help this week with Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton returning to block for Adrian Peterson (and presumably take some of the load off the Vikings' passing game), but he will still have to diagnose the Steelers' defense on the fly and avoid the mistakes he has made so far this season, when he has thrown five interceptions.

Cassel lurking: It was telling how much more confident Ponder was about his ability to play through injury than coach Leslie Frazier was willing to be Wednesday morning. Players are typically more willing to say they're able to play through injury than coaches are to grant them that privilege, but Ponder might also know that if Matt Cassel takes a start from him, the backup quarterback might not give the job back. Cassel struggled in the preseason and is coming off two poor seasons in Kansas City, but he is a former Pro Bowler who might give the Vikings a change of pace. If Cassel plays Sunday and gives the Vikings a spark heading into their bye week, it will be extremely telling what Frazier does next.

Prediction: Ponder was still able to throw in the portion of practice open to the media Wednesday, and the guess here is he starts Sunday against the Steelers at Wembley Stadium. But don't expect a big game from him, especially with Felton back to help Peterson. Look for him to post something in the neighborhood of 175 yards, as the Vikings ask him to keep them out of trouble and help them get their first win as they head into the bye week.

QB Watch: Falcons' Matt Ryan

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the Falcons' quarterback play.

Ryan
Ryan
Rewind: Matt Ryan came out blazing against the Dolphins on Sunday, completing 8 of 9 passes and throwing a touchdown on the Falcons’ initial drive of the game. Ryan was 15-of-17 in the first half as he got the ball out extremely quickly. But then his protection seemed to let him down as the game wore on, although Ryan was not sacked in the game. He finished 23-of-38 for 231 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-23 loss. Ryan’s final pass was an interception as a result of getting his arm hit by Dolphins pass-rusher Dion Jordan.

Fast-forward: The hype surrounding Sunday night’s game against Tom Brady and the Patriots should be a little added motivation for Ryan. But Ryan doesn’t seem like the type to get caught up in individual matchups. He has to worry about running the offense more efficiently against a capable Patriots defense. Ryan also needs his playmakers to make plays. Julio Jones has been his typical self, but Roddy White’s slow recovery from a high-ankle sprain is noticeable.

A running Ryan? We’re not saying that the Falcons should switch to the read-option or anything of that nature, but maybe they should consider using Ryan's legs more in those goal-line situations. Spreading the defense out with the threats of Jones, White and Tony Gonzalez should leave a hole right up the middle. And Ryan is athletic enough to get to the end zone from a reasonable distance -- provided his linemen get a block on somebody.

Prediction: Ryan didn’t go down the field much against the Dolphins, probably because he was more concerned with getting the ball out quickly based on the offensive line issues. But you can bet in a prime-time game at home, Ryan will test the Patriots' secondary with a deep ball to Jones. Remember, Ryan and Jones connected on an 81-yard, catch-and-run score against the Rams.

QB Watch: Bengals' Andy Dalton

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Bengals' quarterback play.

Dalton
Dalton
Rewind: Take one look at Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's stat line from Sunday's 34-30 win over Green Bay and you become convinced that he had a pretty strong day. Only eight of his 28 passes didn't hit their target. He threw for 235 yards. He had two touchdowns. His passer rating was just above 105.0. Oh yeah, and he notched his 35th career win. The only real problem with Dalton's play was the fact he was on the field during Cincinnati's four straight possessions that ended in turnovers. One of them was his first-half interception that started the turnover avalanche. With his offense barely on the field in the second quarter, Dalton sort of disappeared. He didn't reappear until the end of the third, when the first of his two scores sparked a dramatic comeback.

Fast-forward: This week, Dalton faces a Browns defense that hasn't gotten the respect it might deserve, simply because offensive headlines have dominated the team's storylines to this point. Cleveland's defenders rank sixth in the league in total defense, allowing exactly 300.0 yards per game. The unit also ranks 12th in the NFL in passing defense, allowing an average 215.67 yards. The Browns' sack-per-pass-attempt percentage (10.6 percent) is the third highest in the league.

Dalton's best: Dalton has more wins over Cleveland (three) than any other team he has played during his three-year career. His lone loss to the Browns came in last year's 34-27 Week 2 defeat.

Prediction: Look for Dalton to notch win No. 4 against a Browns team that still appears to be finding its overall identity. As good as Cleveland has been defensively, its offensive struggles may be too much to overcome versus a defense as good as Cincinnati's. Another run-of-the-mill, 28-attempt, 235-yard type of day should be enough for Dalton to move his team to 3-1.

QB Watch: Lions' Matthew Stafford

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Detroit Lions' quarterback play.

Stafford
Stafford
Rewind: Matthew Stafford, statistically, had his best yardage day and worst completion percentage day of the season in the 27-20 win over Washington. He threw for 385 yards at a clip of 9.2 yards an attempt but hit on only 59.5 percent of his passes. Still, that’s a pretty strong day for the Lions quarterback, especially as he rebounded from an early interception to lead Detroit to its first win ever in Washington, D.C.

Fast-forward: The Bears will be a challenge for Stafford and the Lions. Undefeated Chicago already has intercepted five passes this season and forced 11 overall turnovers. If Stafford can continue his strong decision-making, though, he could have a pretty decent day. The Bears are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 65.4 percent of their passes, so there could be holes open for the Detroit offense if Stafford can make the right reads.

Losing Burleson hurts: The broken forearm receiver Nate Burleson suffered in a single-car accident early Tuesday morning could change things for Stafford. Burleson is leading Detroit with 19 receptions, and provided a nice option for Stafford after Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. He also started to show some spark, going for more than 100 yards receiving against the Redskins. Now Stafford has to look to Ryan Broyles, Patrick Edwards and Kris Durham, along with perhaps an increased role for his tight ends. None has the long-term reliability Burleson showed, but they have some talent.

Pass protected: Stafford continues to see time to make decisions in the pocket. He is being sacked only 1.6 percent of the time he drops back to pass -- a testament to the strength of the Detroit offensive line. He also isn’t seeing as many blitzes, as teams are sending five or more rushers at Stafford on only 35.2 percent of his drop-backs. He is helping his line by making quick decisions, taking only an average of 2.81 seconds before he makes a pass.

Prediction: Adjusting to not having Burleson on the field, combined with the for-now uncertainty surrounding Bush’s availability, Stafford could struggle more this week than in the past. He’ll still throw a couple of touchdowns and top 250 yards, but he might also have a pair of interceptions.

QB Watch: Buccaneers' Josh Freeman

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' quarterback play.

Freeman
Rewind: Josh Freeman had his third straight game in which he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in a 23-3 loss to the New England Patriots. Freeman completed 19-of-41 passes (46.3 percent) with no touchdowns and one interception. Freeman was sacked three times and had four catchable passes hit the ground.

Fast-forward: New Orleans’ Drew Brees threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns against the Arizona defense on Sunday. But let’s keep in mind that the Bucs don't have anything close to Brees.

The Freeman era is over. Freeman will be benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon for Sunday's game with Arizona, according to Adam Schefter. This is further proof that the reported rift between Freeman and coach Greg Schiano was very real. Glennon was drafted by Schiano and Freeman was not.

Prediction: The best thing the Bucs can do for themselves and Freeman is to trade the guy who once was viewed as a franchise quarterback. It's too late for Freeman and Schiano to patch up their differences and the Bucs have to move forward with Glennon.

QB Watch: Cowboys' Tony Romo

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Cowboys’ quarterback play:

Romo
Rewind: Tony Romo had to throw just 24 passes, completing 17, in the Dallas Cowboys’ 31-7 win over the St. Louis Rams. When was the last time Romo threw so few passes in a game he started and finished? It was Oct. 23, 2011, against the Rams. The common denominator in those games was DeMarco Murray’s rushing. On that day in 2011, Murray ran for 253 yards. On Sunday, he had 175. The running game took the burden off Romo, but that does not mean he was simply along for the ride. Romo had three touchdown passes, and his 24-yard scores to Gavin Escobar and Dwayne Harris came on pinpoint throws. Romo was sacked only once and rarely pressured with the offensive line giving him time to get the ball down the field. Romo averaged 8.8 yards per attempt against the Rams, which was his highest in three games.

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Fast-forward: San Diego has struggled to stop the pass, and you can’t expect the Cowboys to run the ball as well as they did last week. A week after Philadelphia’s Michael Vick threw for 428 yards, Tennessee’s Jake Locker had 299 yards against the Chargers' defense. No offense to the Titans, but they do not have the weapons to match the Cowboys, and the Chargers do not have a consistent enough pass rush to hurry Romo. Quarterbacks are completing 67.2 percent of their passes against San Diego, and Romo has shown improved accuracy this season.

Take care of the ball: Nothing hurts a road team more offensively than a turnover. It gets the crowd going. It gets the defense going. It causes doubt from within. In his past 17 road games, Romo has had turnovers (interceptions or fumbles) in 11 games. The Cowboys are 3-8 in those games, including 0-1 this season. In the six road games in which he has not turned it over, the Cowboys are 4-2. Romo has one interception on 115 pass attempts this season, and that came off a miscommunication with rookie receiver Terrance Williams. His fumble at Kansas City did not lead to any points for the Chiefs.

Prediction: Romo’s top two receiver targets are banged up. Miles Austin could miss the game with a hamstring or at least be limited. Dez Bryant is battling through back spasms. But Romo will have to make plays. And he will against a struggling pass defense. He has to stay away from mistakes. And he will. Look for Romo to have his first 300-yard game of the season even if Austin (hamstring) does not play or is limited and look for at least two touchdown passes.

QB Watch: Browns' Brian Hoyer

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Cleveland Browns' quarterback play:

Hoyer
Rewind: Replacing the injured Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer became the first quarterback in Browns history to throw for at least 300 yards in his debut with the team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He completed 30 of 54 passes for 321 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions Sunday, exploiting the Minnesota Vikings' 25th-ranked pass defense. Coach Rob Chudzinski hasn't named Hoyer the starting quarterback for this coming Sunday yet because Weeden could be available. But it would be surprising if Chudzinski pulled Hoyer after he led the Browns to a comeback win.

Fast-forward: It's going to be a tougher test against the Cincinnati Bengals than the Vikings. The Bengals are coming off a game in which they sacked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers four times and intercepted him twice. What makes Cincinnati so tough against quarterbacks is the fact that the Bengals can get pressure with their front four, which allows them to drop seven defenders back into coverage. But, over the past four seasons, Browns quarterbacks have had 12 touchdowns and five interceptions against the Bengals.

Favorite target: Hoyer wasn't the only one making his 2013 debut this past Sunday. Wide receiver Josh Gordon was coming off a two-game suspension, and Hoyer certainly noticed he was on the field. More than one-third of Hoyer's throws -- 19 of 54 -- went in Gordon's direction. Also, 45 percent of Hoyer's passing yards were accounted for by Gordon.

Prediction: It's difficult to think Hoyer can produce a repeat performance. The Bengals haven't allowed Rodgers, Jay Cutler or Ben Roethlisberger to throw for more than 251 yards. But the Browns will continue to attack with Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron, especially if they fall behind. It could be another game in which Hoyer throws multiple touchdowns and interceptions.

QB Watch: Jets' Geno Smith

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the New York Jets' quarterback play:

Rewind: Geno Smith enjoyed the best game of his young career, becoming the first rookie in Jets history to throw for 300 yards and two touchdowns. He attacked a depleted Bills secondary, completing five passes of 21 yards or more, according to ESPN Stats & Information. For the season, he has completed nine passes in that category, tied with the Packers' Aaron Rodgers for the league lead. On the downside, Smith threw two more interceptions, bringing his total to six. As a comparison, Mark Sanchez didn't throw his sixth interception as a rookie until his sixth game.

Smith
Fast-forward: Smith faces the Titans (2-1) in his second road start. He will encounter an aggressive 4-3 scheme that likes to play man-to-man coverage. The Titans are ranked seventh in total defense and they can pressure the quarterback (nine sacks), but it's not a frightening unit. Opposing quarterbacks have an 85.9 passer rating against them. Much will be made of the Smith-Jake Locker matchup. Smith has seven turnovers; the Titans' quarterback has been turnover-free.

Music City memory: Every time he plays a solid game, Smith creates separation from previous starter Sanchez, who still hopes to play when he returns from injured reserve in November. Smith can really widen the gap if he plays well in Nashville, of all places -- the scene of Sanchez's demise. With the chance to get the Jets back into playoff contention last December, Sanchez threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in a "Monday Night Football" loss that resulted in his benching. A big game by Smith will show, if only symbolically, that the team is better off than last year.

Prediction: Smith's patience will be tested because the Titans don't give up a lot of big plays in the passing game. If he can avoid being overly aggressive, he has a chance to have a highly efficient day.

QB Watch: Rams' Sam Bradford

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the St. Louis Rams' quarterback play.

Bradford
Bradford
Rewind: It was a rough week across the board for the Rams in Dallas, and Sam Bradford was no exception. The Dallas Cowboys roughed him up for six sacks after the Rams hadn't allowed any in the first two games. He managed to finish with 240 yards and a touchdown for a rating of 80.2, but most of that production was cosmetic after the game was out of hand.

Fast-forward: Surprisingly, the 49ers have been much better against the pass than the run so far in 2013, a departure from their M.O. of recent seasons. They’re allowing just 199 yards per game in the air, although that might be as much a function of teams sticking to what works -- in this case, the run -- as the Niners having some sort of lockdown secondary.

The Rams desperately need to establish the run Thursday, but it remains to be seen whether they can do that, which again puts the onus on Bradford to get the air attack rolling.

Get Cookin’: The Week 1 connection of Bradford and tight end Jared Cook generated plenty of excitement but Cook has barely factored in the past two weeks. He posted six catches for 54 yards with no scores after he had seven for 141 and two in the opener. Cook has struggled to shake loose and handle physical press coverage. He doesn’t have to have a career week every week but he needs to be a presence.

Prediction: San Francisco is missing top pass-rusher Aldon Smith and is generally banged up on defense, which should create opportunities for Bradford to have a bounce-back game at home.

QB Watch: Colts' Andrew Luck

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback play.

Luck
Rewind: Andrew Luck wasn’t flashy against the 49ers, going 18-of-27 for 164 yards and no touchdowns. Luck’s longest pass play was to receiver Reggie Wayne for 25 yards, with 23 of those yards coming after the catch. Sunday was only the fourth time in Luck’s career that he didn’t throw a touchdown pass in a game. The Colts didn’t need Luck’s arm to beat San Francisco. He got a huge assist in the running department from Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson, as the Colts rushed for 179 yards.

Fast-forward: Luck faces a Jacksonville defense that has given up eight passing touchdowns. The Jaguars, though, are giving up only 203 yards a game through the air. Don’t expect the Jaguars to get much pressure on Luck. They have only six sacks on the season. San Francisco got to Luck just once this past weekend. Luck averaged 270 yards passing in games against Jacksonville last season.

Not on pace: Luck had already passed for 846 yards by the end of Week 3 last season. He’s well below those numbers this season, having passed for 663 yards. Luck’s had two games of fewer than 180 yards passing. You know what? He’ll gladly accept those numbers because the Colts won both games. They lost to Miami when Luck threw for 321 yards. You can also expect Luck’s passing numbers to fall well short of his 4,374 yards last season because the Colts will have a balanced attack with Bradshaw and Richardson pounding away for yards on the ground.

Prediction: Expect another low-passing game from Luck because the Colts should be able to jump on the winless Jaguars early, then let the two-headed monster of Bradshaw and Richardson kill a lot of clock by running the ball.

QB Watch: Bears' Jay Cutler

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play.

Cutler
Rewind: Forget about the paltry 159-yard passing performance and focus on the impact of what Jay Cutler did against the Steelers on Sunday. Cutler completed 67 percent of his passes for a passer rating of 90.8, but he stayed within the confines of the system as opposed to improvising and taking chances. Then, when the Bears asked Cutler to step up, he did just that during the game-defining drive in which he scrambled for a 13-yard gain (while running over a Steelers defensive back in the process) before firing pinpoint throws on third downs to Brandon Marshall for a 41-yard gain and Earl Bennett for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Fast-forward: Detroit sacked Cutler seven times in two meetings last season, including five times the first time the teams clashed last October. Don’t count on those types of sack totals this time around, as the protection is greatly improved and Cutler is getting rid of the ball much more quickly than he did in the past. Cutler likely will be forced to play dink-and-dunk ball Sunday to advance down the field as opposed to striking the Lions for big chunks of yardage. But the new Cutler has proved disciplined enough to do just that.

Stay consistent: Cutler was responsible for three turnovers in Week 2: two interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown. However, he eliminated such mistakes against a desperate Pittsburgh team in difficult circumstances on the road at Heinz Field. Now, Cutler must do that again at Ford Field. Cutler currently ranks No. 3 in the NFL in total QBR and needs to ride the momentum he has established by remaining consistent.

Prediction: Cutler’s passer rating will be in the 90s again, and he’ll finish with at least two TD passes.

QB Watch: Jaguars' Henne, Gabbert

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Jacksonville Jaguars' quarterback play.

Henne
Gabbert
Gabbert
Rewind: Chad Henne made his second consecutive start in place of Blaine Gabbert, and things pretty much went the way they have all season for the offense: flounder early on first down, struggle to move the ball and then put up yards and points when the defense starts playing softer coverage with a big lead. Henne threw for 235 yards but completed fewer than half of his passes (18-for-38). He also threw two interceptions, including one that bounced off center Brad Meester’s helmet and got deflected a second time. Most of Henne’s production came in the second half. He completed just 5 of 14 passes for 44 yards in the first half, which ended with the Seahawks leading 24-0. Henne, by the way, posted a 6.1 QBR against Seattle.

Fast-forward: Gabbert’s hand has healed, and he will return to the starting lineup on Sunday against Indianapolis. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said he was impressed with the way Gabbert threw the ball while running the scout team at the end of last week and said he spoke with Gabbert about trying to play more freely and take a few more risks. The Colts are coming off an impressive 27-7 road victory over San Francisco. They neutralized Colin Kaepernick and held the 49ers to just 254 yards of total offense.

Horseplay: Gabbert seems to have the Colts’ number. Three of his five victories as a starter have come against Indianapolis despite him never having thrown for more than 209 yards in any of the four meetings.

Prediction: It looks like the Jaguars may have tight end Marcedes Lewis back, which should make a big difference in the passing game. Now there’s someone else on the field to draw attention away from Cecil Shorts. Unless the team has better production on first down, it’s going to be another long day for Gabbert.

QB Watch: Broncos' Peyton Manning

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
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A weekly examination of the Denver Broncos' quarterback play.

Manning
Rewind: At one point late in the first half Monday night, Peyton Manning was 21-of-23 passing for 264 yards and three touchdowns against the Raiders. And those two incompletions were drops. That’s about as dialed in as a passer can be and Manning’s increased comfort level in the Broncos’ offense, in the city of Denver and with the receivers around him continues to show with each passing week.

Fast-forward: The fast-break Eagles want to run waves of plays at opposing defenses, but have had only one game this season -- the opener against the Redskins -- where they’ve run more plays than their opponent has and they didn’t top 65 against either San Diego or Kansas City. But they will have to consider how fast they want to go against the Broncos because handing the ball over to Manning too many times hasn’t really worked out well for any of the Broncos’ opponents.

Little of this, little of that: The Broncos showed Monday night they have more variety in their playbook than they had previously shown. They had been a three-wide receiver team much of the time in the first two games, but flashed several two tight end groupings -- including Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme in one and Virgil Green and Thomas in another -- to go with a three tight end look they showed on one pass play.

Prediction: Manning has 12 touchdown passes in three games. He has completed 73 percent of his passes and averaged 9.4 yards per attempt. Those are migraine-inducing numbers for opposing defensive coordinators and the Eagles’ Bill Davis is next in line. Against a team with a first-year coaching staff and depth issues, the Broncos figure to push the Eagles into plenty of specialty packages in the secondary in hopes of getting favorable matchups against defensive backs further down the depth chart.

QB Watch: Chiefs' Alex Smith

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback play.

Smith
Rewind: Alex Smith had more completions (22) and yards (273) in last week's win over the Philadelphia Eagles than he did in either of the season's first two games. He was also sacked (five times) more than he had been all season and didn't throw a touchdown pass for the first time in three games. The Chiefs had been a perfect 5-for-5 scoring touchdowns while inside the opponent's 20-yard line but were just 1-for-6 against the Eagles in part because Smith wasn't as effective in the red zone.

Fast-forward: Opposing quarterbacks have had little trouble picking apart the secondary of the New York Giants, who have allowed more than 68 percent of the passes they've defended to be completed. Smith has been under consistent pressure in each of the past two games, but could have more time to throw against the Giants. Their normally strong pass rush has generated just three sacks this season.

A consistent Smith: Statistically, Smith has played three similar games this season. His passing attempts have been between 34 and 36 and his completions either 21 or 22. He had two touchdown passes in each of the first two games and none against Philadelphia, but he has yet to throw an interception despite attempting 105 passes.

Prediction: Look for another game in the Smith mold against the Giants. His completions again will be in the low-20s, his attempts in the mid-30s. Put him down for a couple of touchdown passes against a beleaguered defense, but Smith will also throw his first interception of the season.

QB Watch: Bills' EJ Manuel

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Bills' quarterback play.

Manuel
Rewind: It was a game to forget for rookie EJ Manuel. He went 19-for-42 passing, a 45.2 completion percentage that was second-lowest in the NFL last week, behind Michael Vick's 13-for-30 showing. Manuel completed just 3 of 12 throws on third down. Some of his passes landed well out of bounds, causing coach Doug Marrone to say Monday: "I’ve always realized my entire life [that] nobody has ever been able to beat the sideline. ... We want to make sure we’re giving our players an opportunity to make those plays." Manuel also said Monday that he needs to work on keeping his throws in-bounds.

Fast-forward: The Jets' defense was installed by Rex Ryan, the former defensive coordinator of the Ravens, who have retained much of his defensive philosophy. The Ravens aren't quite what they used to be -- they have allowed more passing yards (296 per game) than the Bills -- but their calling card is still their pressure and aggressiveness. They have a strong pass rush, headlined by defensive ends Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. They will be the Bills' top concern in their week of preparation.

Blitz pickup: Manuel was just 1-for-10 when the Jets rushed five or more last weekend, and 1-for-8 when a defensive back rushed. There is likely some concern on the Bills' part that teams will use more blitzing going forward. Manuel was sacked eight times by the Jets, the most of any team in Week 3, and was hit 16 times. So as much as Manuel will look to improve, his offensive line needs to get better, too.

Prediction: It's tough to see Manuel putting up big numbers against this Ravens defense. The Bills' best bet could be to get behind the Ravens' pass rush with dump-offs and screen passes. It's a dink-and-dunk style, but the Bills could opt for it after last week's breakdowns in pass protection. It's not what Buffalo wants to do offensively, but keeping Manuel's passes short and manageable might help Sunday.

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