The 10-2 Ravens travel to Buffalo to face the 9-3 Bills this Sunday. All-time, the Ravens are 5-3 against the Bills, including a 47-3 win to open up the 2018 season. Both teams have changed significantly since that beatdown as both starters (Joe Flacco and Nathan Peterman) have been replaced by 2018 first-round picks (Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen). One of the largest differences is John Brown, who signed with the Bills in the offseason. Brown caught a touchdown for the Ravens in last year’s matchup
Josh Allen is coming off his best performance as a professional as he dotted up the Cowboys for 274 total yards and a pair of touchdowns alongside a career-high passer rating. Allen has made major strides in Year 2. After throwing more interceptions than touchdowns as a rookie, Allen now has twice as many touchdowns as interceptions including a sterling 11-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio since the bye week. Since Week 7, Allen has a passer rating of 98.7 and the Bills are 5-2, strengthening their grip on a playoff spot.
Lamar Jackson has lived up to his billing as an MVP front-runner. Jackson leads the NFL in touchdown percentage and QBR, and he is one touchdown behind Russell Wilson for the most in the NFL. Since Baltimore’s bye, Jackson has been nothing short of spectacular. He has 14 passing touchdowns and zero interceptions, completing 73 percent of passes and posting a 136.8 passer rating. Once marred by accuracy concerns, Jackson is connecting on 66.5 percent of his passes for the season.
Running the Ball:
The Bills have three strong runners in their backfield with the aforementioned Allen, rookie Devin Singletary, and Frank Gore. Gore leads the team in rushing attempts, but Singletary has flashed an absurd efficiency and has one more yard than Gore despite having 48 fewer carries and playing in three fewer games. Singletary is the third most efficient rusher on a per-carry basis, hauling in 5.6 yards per rush. Only Raheem Mostert and a certain Lamar Jackson average more.
Josh Allen has found the end zone eight times on the ground, a mark that only trails seven running backs.
As a team, the Bills are fifth in the NFL in attempts and yards.
Similar to the Bills, the Ravens have a trio of dynamic runners with Jackson, Mark Ingram, and Gus Edwards. They are three of the seven runners who average more than five yards per carry with Jackson pacing the league at 7.0 yards per attempt. Jackson is ninth in rushing yards, and Ingram is 12th. The duo has combined for 16 rushing touchdowns. The Ravens lead the NFL in rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and yards per rush. The Ravens have hit 200 rushing yards in six different matchups, and their season-low is 136 yards. The Ravens will look to get back to the 200-yard mark after missing it in Week 13.
The Bills are buoyed through the air with John Brown and Cole Beasley. Both were acquired in free agency, and both are on pace to set career-highs in receiving yards. Brown is in the top 20 of all receivers in terms of yards. Both have contributed five receiving touchdowns. Rookie tight end Dawson Knox has played a larger role in the Buffalo offense in recent weeks, recording multiple catches in five consecutive games. Knox is not a star by any means, but he has shown some flashes of competency, and he has hit 50 receiving yards thrice in 2019.
The pass-catching duo of Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown has been incredibly effective in 2019 for Baltimore. Andrews and Brown are first and second in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Despite missing a pair of games, Brown has been dynamic for much of the season. Brown has a pair of two-touchdown games, and he had at least four targets in every game before Week 13. Andrews has been targeted eight or more times in six different games, and he recorded a pair of 100-yard performances to open the season. While Andrews has not hit 100 yards since September, he should have a steady workload on Sunday regardless of the weather.
In the Trenches:
The Bills have been remarkably healthy on the offensive line this season. Four of Buffalo’s offensive line starters have participated in 87 percent of their snaps with the only starter to not feature is recently-promoted rookie Cody Ford. The Bills have a consistent presence upfront with the ability to move defensive lines and great mammoth gaps for Devin Singletary to run through. The Bills have four defensive linemen with at least 3.5 sacks with Jordan Phillips pacing the team at 7.5. Shaq Lawson will likely receive a significant amount of attention as he has a half-sack or more in three straight games. Other stalwarts include rookie Ed Oliver and Jerry Hughes.
The Ravens have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Led by potential All-Pro selections in Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda, the line has been steady besides the loss of center Matt Skura. Orlando Brown has been great at right tackle, and Bradley Bozeman joins Brown as the only Ravens to play every single snap on the season. Patrick Mekari stepped in for Skura in Week 13 and performed admirably in the face of San Francisco’s daunting defensive line. On the defensive side of the ball, Matt Judon leads the team in sacks, quarterback hits, and tackles for loss. The Ravens have struggled to get large sack tallies for much of the season, but they lead the NFL in blitzes, forcing quarterbacks to throw quickly.
This is a battle of two of the NFL’s best secondaries. Both sides are littered with Pro Bowl-level talents at both cornerback and safety. Tre’Davious White and Marlon Humphrey could find themselves as All-Pro selections at cornerback. White has 15 pass defenses and four interceptions while Humphrey has nine pass defenses and a pair of interceptions to go along with three fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns. On the back end, the Bills have the underrated pair of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. The Ravens have Earl Thomas and a resurgent Chuck Clark as a safety pair. All four have played well on the season, and any could make an appearance at the Pro Bowl. The Ravens might have a slight advantage with the presence of Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters. Smith has only played half of the season, but he has a reputation as a good cornerback. Peters has his moments of being terrible, but he has a pair of pick-sixes with the Ravens and had one with the Rams before being traded.
The weather could play a role, but particularly dismal weather would likely favor the Ravens despite the game being held in Buffalo. I expect both teams to be able to string together some solid drives despite the overall solidity of both defenses. Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson will likely add touchdowns on the ground to along with solid passing days. I think the game will be a little too close for the liking of Ravens fans, but they should prevail in the end.
Spread: Bills (+5.5)
Score: Ravens 27, Bills 22
Over/Under: OVER 43.5