Buffalo plays host tomorrow night in the AFC divisional playoff round against last year’s league MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. In the wildcard round, Baltimore knocked Tennessee out of the post season in Nashville 20 – 13 in a game they dominated more than what the final score indicates. The aforementioned Ravens quarterback didn’t impress with his passing, completing 17 of 24 throws for 179 yards and no scores, but ran all over the Titans, literally. He led the team’s grinding ground attack with 16 carries for 136 yards and a touchdown. He was the lead engineer of a team who slowly strangled
the Titans into submission by gaining 236 yards on the ground and controlling the clock for over 33 minutes.
Different Offensive Styles Collide
Bills’ offensive coordinator Brian Daboll finally had all the weapons in his arsenal to unleash a dominant air raid down on NFL opponents this season and used Josh Allen as his General to lead his attack. By now, everyone knows the giant leap forward Allen took this season and his name being mentioned in the MVP race is concrete proof. Including the playoffs, Buffalo has the 3 rd best passing game in the league. Because of the heavy reliance on the pass, the Bills have made their rushing game a mere accessory. They attempt to run the ball an average of just 25 times a game which ranks them 21 st in the league. Conversely, Baltimore uses their signal caller’s legs to frustrate and tire out their competition. Jackson ran the ball 159 times in the regular season for 1,005 yards and 7 touchdowns. That’s three more attempts, 318 more yards and 5 more touchdowns than Bills’ leading running back Devin Singletary. Combined with rookie running back JK Dobbins, the Ravens have the number one rushing game in the NFL and average almost 200 yards per game on a league leading 35 attempts per contest.
And on the Defensive Side
With the two teams’ differing ways of scoring, the obvious place to look is how the defenses fared. The advantage here goes to Baltimore as their overall defense ranks 6 th in the league while the Bills find themselves at the number 16 position. Even more specifically, the Ravens pass defense is 6 th while Buffalo in stopping the run is 20 th . What ultimately matters most is points and the Ravens hold their foes to just 19 points per game, good for 2 nd best in the league. Buffalo again finds itself ranked in the middle of the field at 15, giving up 24 per game. Keeping your defense from getting gassed by the 4 th quarter is more vital in close playoff matchups. What’s somewhat surprising is that despite the pass heavy scheme the Bills run, they manage to eat up clock doing so. While you would expect Baltimore to rank high in
time of possession, which they do, being 5 th in the league controlling the ball for 31 and a half minutes per game. You wouldn’t expect Buffalo to be right behind them in 6 th place with only six seconds separating the two teams. You can chalk up the turnover battle as being even too, with each team being plus 4 for the regular season and the Bills having just four more total.
Bills’ running back Zack Moss suffered a high ankle sprain against the Cots and his rookie year is complete. Coach McDermott has said that TJ Yeldon will replace him. Yeldon has been a healthy inactive player for the majority of the season, only appearing in three games.
Besides Yeldon, the Bills have undrafted rookie Antonio Williams on the practice squad and has been designated as protected this week. He can be called up to play as well and impressed with his hard running style in the 2 nd half of the season finale against the Dolphins. Williams finished with 83 total yards and 2 touchdowns in his only work of the year. The Bills also signed free agent and former Pro-Bowler Devonta Freeman to their practice squad and he was seen Thursday getting in reps with the first team. Though it’s doubtful he’ll have a good enough grasp of the playbook in such limited time to suit
up. The unpredictable Buffalo winter weather may play a significant role in the outcome of this one. Right now, the Saturday night forecast calls for one to three inches of snow with winds between 15 – 25 mph. This stands to favor Baltimore with their lopsided rushing approach as visibility and ball accuracy may be problematic in the passing game.
Turnovers are crucial in every game but even more so in the playoffs where the remaining best teams capitalize on mistakes. Things like ball control and limiting second chances by way of penalties loom larger, especially if weather conditions are less than ideal. I see this as a close contest throughout with tense moments in the final quarter and may come down to a last second score to win it. Rookie kicker Tyler Bass continues to carve out his place in Bills lore and Buffalo moves on to the AFC Championship in a squeaker.
BILLS – 23 RAVENS – 21