Two of the best teams in the American Football Conference are set to face off on Sunday but few at the start of the season would have predicted a 10-2 Ravens team, and a 9-3 Bills team to meet in Week 14. Both Buffalo and Baltimore were expected to be middle-of-the-pack teams, with either a record just above or just below .500. But after such a surprising season, these two teams now meet near the tail-end of the year, deep into the playoff hunt. Baltimore leads the AFC North division and can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Bills. Buffalo cannot clinch anything with a win, but a 10-3 record with just three weeks left would leave little room for the Bills to fall out of playoff contention. The Bills would also keep pace with the Patriots in the race for the AFC East title. The implications for both teams make this matchup imperative.
Here is how the Baltimore Ravens can win:
Ravens Rush Defense vs Bills Rush Offense
Sunday’s game will show what happens when two dominant rushing teams square off against each other. Baltimore’s own rushing prowess is known, but Buffalo’s is surprising. The Bills are fifth in the National Football League in average total rushing yards per game. On average, the Bills rush for 137.9 yards each game. The Bills structure their ground attack much like the Ravens. Like the Ravens, Buffalo has a large committee of runners that contribute to the ground attack. Running backs Devin Singletary and Frank Gore each have over 500 yards rushing this season, and quarterback Josh Allen has rushed for 430 yards this season so far. The Ravens rush defense ranked sixth in the league, allows an average of 94.9 rushing yards per game. Baltimore’s unit will need to hold strong against the very productive and balanced Bills ground game.
The Fight for Time of Possession Dominance
When two of the game’s best rush defenses meet, only one thing is certain. Time of possession will matter, a lot. Both the Ravens and Bills offenses are structured to battle for and win the time possession. Holding the ball longer than the opponent and winning the time of possession enables an offense to capitalize on its drives while limiting the opponent’s chances to score. The Ravens and Bills will enter this game, both attempting to win the time of possession, and each has the firepower to do it. The defenses will need to step up and force the opposing offense off the field. Otherwise, this could be a very low scoring affair, where drives take up 5 to ten minutes each.
Josh Allen’s Receiver Duo vs Ravens Secondary
Josh Allen is playing at a very high level as a young quarterback, but he could not do so without some help. Allen has some great receivers at his disposal, such as the former Raven John Brown and the former Cowboy Cole Beasley. Brown and Beasley have 882 and 635 receiving yards this season respectfully. Part of these two receiver’s success comes from their complementary styles. Beasly is a good slot receiver that can work the underneath routes. Brown is a speedster that is most successful on deep shots. The Ravens secondary must work to take away these two exceptional weapons from Josh Allen’s arsenal.
Lamar Jackson is the key to the Ravens offense. I feel like a broken record, but it is true. Lamar Jackson is the key to a Baltimore win.
Humphrey will be tasked with going up against his former teammate in John Brown. Brown’s speed will be difficult to defend, and the young cornerback will need to work hard to cover him.
A strong run game will be the key to a Ravens victory. The ground attack starts with Lamar Jackson, but it ends with Mark Ingram. Ingram will need a productive day to slide the Ravens past the Bills.
The Bills and Ravens are, on paper, two of the best teams in the American Football Conference, but the Bills will show that there is still no formula to beat the Ravens. While Buffalo’s ground attack will be productive, the Ravens’ unit will hold on to the time of possession, and ultimately secure a hard-fought win.