The Bills find themselves two wins away from a potential Super Bowl appearance. However, the team is taking it one game at a time. Wisely, of course, because an opponent that has been on a hot streak similar to them is up next, as the Baltimore Ravens (11-5) come to Buffalo (13-3) for the Divisional round.
The added layer to all of this? Two of the 2018 NFL QB Draft Class squaring it off to earn a right to the Conference Championship in Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson.
With that, here are three keys to the game for both teams:
1. Rush hour
Baltimore has won a large chunk of their games with a strong rushing attack and a solid defense. They are the No. 1rushing offense for a reason, though. Between Jackson, and their multitude of running backs, including rookie sensation J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Mark Ingram when he isn’t a healthy scratch, and more.
The Ravens can run in many ways, and that makes them dangerous in any situation. The Bills defense, while better defending against the run, still gives up a lot on the ground, and no team is better this year at making people pay for it like Baltimore does.
Sticking with the run helps Jackson in the passing game, which hasn’t been his strength over his NFL career, and it also helps keep Allen off of the field. As long as the Ravens can score, there’s pressure on Allen to make things happen in a quick amount of time.
2. Play to Jackson’s strength in the passing game
With all due respect to the former league MVP, Jackson is not a pass-first quarterback. His highest passing yards total was in Week 1 with 275 passing yards. In fact, of the 16 games that he’s played this season, including last week against the Titans, Lamar only has five games where he passed for more than 200 yards. Jackson also had a 97-yard passing game against Kansas City in Week 3.
While the Ravens have still won in most of their games this season, it shows that Jackson may have limitations as a passer. For Jackson to succeed as a passer against Buffalo, he should take a page out of the Colts playbook from last week and attack the middle of the field often. Jackson’s deep ball isn’t dependable, but middle of the field is deadly accurate.
Last week, the Colts tight ends were successful in moving the ball downfield. This may be something that the Ravens want to explore, as Jackson can use a mix of fake handoffs to throw off defenses, and hit his receivers in a reasonable range.
3. Why stop at your first win?
Jackson came into 2020 with several unfair stigmas against him. One of those, being his inability to win a playoff game. The still very young quarterback is currently in his third trip to the postseason, but has lost in the first round to the Chargers in 2018, and the Titans in 2019. While wins are a unfair quarterback trait, Jackson finally got his first last week against the Titans.
For the Ravens; sake, and even for Jackson, the satisfaction of that one victory cannot be the end goal. Baltimore seems to be fighting for something more than just getting that proverbial “monkey off of their back.” but how they perform when the bright lights are on this Saturday will show.
With how hot that the Ravens have been playing, there is real Super Bowl ambitions. They’ll have to bring their best, and like the Colts almost did last week, play a perfect game against a red-hot Bills team.