Three things occupying my brain as the Bills get ready for a titanic matchup with AFC leading Baltimore…
Slow And Steady Loses This Race
The Ravens are a machine right now. They take a lead, they make teams one dimensional and they lean on you with that running game until you crumble like a burning table in the Bills parking lot. Baltimore hasn’t trailed in the second half since week five, a streak of seven straight games.
Brian Daboll’s offense has a habit of starting slow. The Bills have three first quarter touchdowns all season and only one since week three. Only Washington has allowed the first Buffalo drive to reach the end zone. That ain’t gonna fly in this game.
The Bills need to get on top early in this game. If the Bills win the toss, Sean McDermott almost always defers his choice to get the ball first in the second half. Not this time. Take the ball first and try to get a lead first.
Lamar Jackson has been fantastic, but not even the Ravens like their chances if he has throw in the Buffalo wind to rally late. Buffalo needs to make Baltimore have to do it.
Be Who You Are (Lately)
The Bills adjustment on defense the last three weeks has been to be more aggressive. Attack runs more and blitz more against the pass. There’s no reason to change this week.
Lorenzo Alexander said this week he understands that standing back and trying to react against Jackson is a losing proposition. “He’s going to break me down eventually.”
Baltimore’s run game is built on making defenses unsure where the ball is (Jackson’s Avenger like athletic ability helps, too). Leslie Frazier called Jackson a “Houdini” hiding the ball. There are going to be plays where the Bills miss the ball and the Ravens hit something big. It’s ok. The D still needs to attack. Try to dictate. Maybe even make the Ravens a bit unsure.
It’s worked the last three weeks against running games with a variety of abilities. No reason to change.
Don’t Miss Opportunities
The Ravens defense seems pretty good, but don’t have a lot of numbers to back it up. They have a middling ranking in most defensive categories and gave up 500 yard plus in both their losses (Kansas City and Cleveland).
Their offense helps the defense in two big ways: the aforementioned being ahead a lot and keeping them off the field. The Ravens lead the NFL in time of possession, holding the ball 34:32 per game. All those running plays also keep the clock spinning and shorten the game for both teams.
It means the Bills aren’t going to get a ton of possessions. They can’t give away points. One of the few areas where Baltimore’s D really excels is in the red zone. They give up the 4th best percentage of red zone touchdowns. That won’t help either.
Finished drives and a Hausch Money game from Stephen Hauschka will be a must.
I’ve thought for weeks the Bills have a chance in this game. I’m as blown away by Jackson as much as the next guy. The offense, too. However, it doesn’t seem built to make up points quickly from behind. Baltimore has gotten down by double digits twice all year and lost both games. Granted, most teams don’t rally from down 10 or more.
It’s not impossible to see the Bills with an early 10 or 14 point lead. The crowd will be as wired as they’ve been in 20 years. The Ravens are coming off a huge battle with the Niners. They could be flat. Baltimore has also won eight straight. At some point, you figure they play a stinker.
It’s also possible John Harbaugh’s club does to Buffalo what they’ve done to almost everyone else: outphysical them for 60 minutes. It won’t surprise me to see the Bills find a way to win, but predicting a Baltimore loss? No thanks. Give me the Ravens 27-17.