- Baltimore led the NFL in rushing yardage during the regular season, while Buffalo was third in passing yardage
Saturday night brings us what should be a great showdown between two of the game’s best young quarterbacks, and arguably the two very best dual threat playmakers at the position. Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen will each certainly play a huge role in deciding the outcome.
Jackson and the Ravens have dominated as a prolific rushing offense over the past two seasons, and they led the NFL with a whopping 3,071 rushing yards in the regular season before tacking on another 236 in their win over Tennessee in the Wild Card round. Allen and the Bills have been the opposite — though Allen always makes a mark with his legs, Buffalo’s high early down pass rate has been a key to their successful season through the air. Their 4,620 passing yards in the regular season were good for third best in the league, just 234 shy of the league-leading Chiefs. Allen added another 324 yards and two scores in the Bills’ first-round win over the Colts.
Though this matchup brings contrasting styles, the quarterback impact is similar. Both teams will look to their quarterback’s rushing ability in key spots — the Ravens always do, and I expect Buffalo to lean on Allen's versatility more than ever after losing one of their two main running backs, Zack Moss, to an injury last week.
While quarterback rushing volume and efficiency can be tough to predict, this game is a strong bet to be influenced by these types of big plays. And with a close line, one or two big plays could decide it.
On paper, the matchups are in Baltimore’s favor. The Bills struggle against the run, Baltimore’s strength, while the Ravens tend to prevent opposing wide receivers from racking up yardage, a tough sell for a Bills offense that relies on its wideouts. But Buffalo will play aggressively, both mixing up their playcalls well as to not be predictable in their run/pass decisions and being willing to eschew punts and go on fourth downs at a high rate. That approach could prove critical.
I expect both offenses to find success, and while I lean toward the underdog Ravens as the value bet on the spread, my favorite bet here is the over. If the Ravens do establish their ground game, we can bet on Buffalo to play fast and throw at a high rate to keep pace. If Buffalo gets out ahead, Baltimore will have to get more pass-happy, while the Bills will have a tough time relying on their running backs to salt away the game against a Ravens defense fresh off shutting down Derrick Henry.
In most potential game scenarios, I expect these teams to be running plenty of plays late. That will be especially true if the game does stay close, as the line suggests, and back-and-forth second halves are always what over bettors want to see. I'm betting on plenty of scoring opportunities and a high-scoring affair in this matchup of two of the game’s better offenses.
NFL Expert Picks
Over 49.5 @ -106
NFL Free Picks
We're really getting to the business end of the season as this weekend throws up the Divisional Round, which sees the best 8 teams in the NFL face off. Saturday sees Aaron Rodgers welcome the Rams and their incredible defense to Lambeau after they kept Russell Wilson in check last week. Next up is the Ravens @ Bills, as the league's best ground game faces one of the best passing attacks in football. Sunday sees the biggest spread of the round as the underdog Browns face the Chiefs at Arrowhead. The final game of the round sees divisional rivals, the Saints and Buccaneers, meet for the third time this season. Can Tom Brady and Tampa Bay get their first win when it matters? We'll find out.
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