Who’s ready for an epic battle between Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson on Saturday night, with the Ravens vs Bills? This will be a clash between two very different styles of offenses who have kept defensive coordinators nightmares throughout the season. And just to add an extra storyline to this epic matchup, the National Weather Forecast is predicting 1-3 inches of snow and high wind gusts in the evening. Regardless of the conditions a trip to the AFC Championship is on the line and this yet another chance for these young superstar QB’s to prove their doubters wrong. Before we turn the game on on Saturday, I will preview which offense I think has a better chance of succeeding against two of the league’s toughest defenses, which are no joke themselves.
Let’s start with Josh Allen and the red hot Buffalo Bills. Their strong suit is their explosive pass game, led by top receiver Stephon Diggs. Diggs finished the regular season with 127 receptions for 1,535 yards and 8 touchdowns (tops on the team). His presence is this offense adds consistent down the field threat to threaten defenses and that only continued in the wildcard round last week. Having your top receiver haul in six catches for 128 yards and score is just the performance you need this time of year and Diggs delivered.
However, this offense doesn’t just rely on one receiver to help Allen move the offense all over the field. Great job by Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, who combined for 11 catches for 142 yards to make sure the Colts couldn’t focus all their attention on Diggs. That kind of repeat performance will be crucial this weekend because the Ravens defense is no joke. One storyline to keep an eye on is Beasley’s knee injury which has kept him limited in practice, but considering he still played last week and caught seven passes for 57 yards, I’d say he’ll fight through it and work his magic.
Coming to town to try and slow down this explosive offense will be the Baltimore Ravens, who are fresh off of limiting the league’s leading rusher to just 40 yards rushing on 18 carries. This resulted in a hard fought 20-13 win in Nashville and they are brimming with confidence. Baltimore sports the 7th ranked pass rating, which ranks 4th in completions given up of 20+ yards or more. This is particularly important because Josh Allen’s speciality is completions of 20+ yards this season, completing 66 such passes (4th). The way for the Ravens defense to counter that is sending a variety of pressure at Allen and force him to make quick decisions.
That’s a perfect way to get turnovers and whoever wins the turnover battle will win this game. Don “Wink” Martindale’s defense blitzes more than anyone in the league at 44% and I expect more of the same on Sunday, especially if they want to keep Allen from getting comfortable in the pocket. The conditions throughout the game will play a part in that too. Drops will lead to turnovers and/or shorter drives and you don’t want to give Lamar Jackson extra opportunities to score, because that won’t end well.
One way to counter the Ravens’ dominant pass defense is to feed RB Devin Singletary. His explosive and powerful run style is the perfect counter strike for Buffalo to use because of the fact that Baltimore is ranked 26th in yards per carry (4.6), while allowing 108.8 yards per game. Poor tackling can be a problem in the snow and with high wind gusts set to kick in as well, throwing the ball could prove difficult. Singeltary has not been the main feature in the running game, as he failed to rush for 100 yards this season, but the conditions on the field are favorable for a break out game. Also, the Ravens must account for Josh Allen using his legs to extend plays and take off down the field when nothing is open. His 421 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns outstanding and he has shown time and time again that he will use his mobility to make defenses look foolish. Just ask the Colts.
Speaking of mobile QB’s, Lamar Jackson is a human joystick that destroys opposing defenses with his legs and speed. Did you see his 48 yard touchdown run in the wildcard round? He juked/outraced at least five defenders on his way to a game tying score. Anyone who wants to see the replay can click the video below.
Allen accounted for 1,005 yards and seven touchdowns this season by himself. Couple that with his 16 carries for 136 yards and a score in the wildcard round and he just continues to add to his legacy. You let him get loose and it’s game over. He is more motivated than ever after winning his first career playoff game and first game when trailing by 10+ points. Expect him to continue using his legs to dash through the snow and frustrate the Bills defense.
Don’t forget Baltimore’s run game also features J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, who like Singeltary are a combination of power and speed that compliment Jackson and allow for read option and play action to deliver game changing plays. They combined for 1,528 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns adding more headaches for opposing defensive coordinators. It’s bad enough having one explosive runner to account for in the backfield, but to have a three headed attack that can score from anywhere, it will take a team effort to contain them.
The problem for Buffalo is that their weakness is rush defense. They surrendered 4.6 yards per carry (26th) and 119.6 yards per game. Watching the Colts combined to rush for 163 yards in their loss in Buffalo last week, makes me nervous for this defense and that performance can’t be duplicated this week or their season is over. Also thinking about the fact that they allowed Cam Newton and Kyler Murray to score 4 rushing touchdowns on their defense will make anyone in Bills Mafia extremely nervous.
However if they do contain Baltimore’s multi talented ground game, they do have an advantage in their back end. DC Leslie Frazier’s pass defense is ranked 5th in passer rating and 10th in yards per attempt, while being tied for 7th in interceptions. Their top priorities are covering TE Mark Andrews and WR Willie Snead. Both players are Jackson’s favorite targets to throw to, as evidenced by them at the top of the team in receptions. Now don’t get me wrong, you can’t forget about Dez Bryant and Marquise Brown either, but it’s clear that when the going gets tough, Andrews and Snead are his favorite targets.
However, I still think that Buffalo needs to not let their run defense get pushed around, otherwise they will be going home for the offseason sooner than expected. No Ravens fan wants to see 40-50 pass attempts from Lamar Jackson or their team playing from behind because despite last week’s 10 point comeback, one game doesn’t change the fact that this team isn’t built to consistently come from behind.
Ravens vs Bills Prediction
I’m going to have to pick the Bills to win this game, because I trust their passing attack will find a way to use their dormant running game to set up play action. When you have Stephon Diggs and Gabriel Davis consistently showing they can beat defensive backs one on one down the field, that’s concerning. They are also just as deadly in the short passing game and you can’t forget about Cole Beasley either, who’s an amazing slot receiver that can get open quickly over the middle of the field.
They all don’t need to play hero ball and get a homerun shot on every play, thus cutting down on gut wrenching and season ending mistakes. Everyone knows what the Ravens running game is capable of, but can I really trust their passing attack to carry the load more than 20-25 times in a game? From where I’m sitting, the answer is no.
Final score: Buffalo win 27-23
The game kicks off tomorrow at 8:15 pm on NBC. Who do you think will advance to the AFC Championship game? Leave your predictions in the comment section below or on the CruelFan Facebook page.
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By: Whitney Dowds CruelFan.com