The Baltimore Ravens come to Orchard Park to face the Buffalo Bills as the hottest team in the NFL. Winners of eight straight games, they’ve knocked off the 10-2 Seattle Seahawks, the 10-2 New England Patriots, the 8-4 Houston Texans, the 7-5 Los Angeles Rams, and the 10-2 San Francisco 49ers in that span.
Whereas many pundits question the legitimacy of Buffalo’s 9-3 record based on the weakness of the Bills’ schedule, nobody is questioning Baltimore’s success this season. The Ravens have consistently dismantled the league’s elite over the last two months, relying heavily on a devastating running game while also mixing in an explosive passing attack. Combine that with the league’s ninth-best defense in terms of yards allowed, and the Ravens appear to be the AFC’s new Super Bowl frontrunner.
What will it take for the Bills to come out with arguably the team’s biggest win in at least two decades? For starters, the Bills will need to contain the players on this list.
QB Lamar Jackson
In the “no kidding” department, the Bills will need to stop Jackson, arguably the top candidate for Most Valuable Player in the league, if they stand any chance at winning on Sunday. Jackson has scored more touchdowns (32) than any player in the league this year, with 25 passing touchdowns and seven more via rushing. Additionally, he has only five interceptions, is completing 66.5% of his passes, and has 977 rushing yards—so it’s clear that Jackson is the top player in Baltimore’s offense. The 49ers were able to limit him through the air last week—he only completed 14-of-23 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown—but they had no answer for him as a runner, as he ran for 101 yards and a touchdown. That was his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season. Jackson is only 63 yards away from breaking Michael Vick’s record for rushing yardage in a season by a quarterback. If Buffalo can delay him from breaking that record, they’ll have a great chance at victory on Sunday.
RB Mark Ingram
Another important portion of Baltimore’s vaunted rushing attack, Ingram is a downhill monster, averaging five yards per carry this year. He has a total of 837 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, and he’s on pace to rush for 1,116 yards and 12 touchdowns, which would be a near mirror of his Pro Bowl effort in 2017 (he totaled 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns that year with the New Orleans Saints). His best game of that 2017 season was a 21-carry, 131-yard performance against the Bills where he scored three rushing touchdowns. The Bills lost 47-10. They can’t let Ingram run wild again this week; otherwise, they may face a similar fate.
TE Mark Andrews
Jackson’s favorite receiver isn’t Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, but is instead the big tight end Andrews. He leads the team in targets (79), receptions (53), receiving yards (693), and receiving touchdowns (7). Jackson loves to attack the middle of the field, especially up the seam, as teams try to play a cover-two zone against him with a middle spy. Andrews has done a great job fitting in the soft spots in the zone, and he is a tough match-up for anyone. He’s too big for most defensive backs, and he’s athletic enough to burn linebackers. Buffalo has some great defenders in the middle, players like Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde, all of whom will need to help in shutting Andrews down.
G Marshall Yanda
Who’s excited to watch some offensive line play?! It seems crazy to watch a guard, of all positions, on such an explosive offense, but he really is essential to what they do. Yanda is athletic enough to pull and clear space at the second level, but he’s also tough enough and strong enough to manhandle some of the league’s biggest and best defensive tackles by himself. If he can clear the middle of Buffalo’s pass rush to a side, it opens up huge running lanes for Jackson through the middle of the line. Buffalo’s interior defensive linemen have done a great job of late, but they’ll have a difficult match-up this week.
CB Marlon Humphery
The physical Humphery figures to be matched up against John Brown, his former teammate and Buffalo’s best receiver. Humphery is a strong, physical corner, and he’ll probably try to jam and disrupt Brown at the line of scrimmage. Officials have flagged Humphery for holding, illegal contact, or pass interference seven times this season, and with a player like Brown across from him, the likelihood that he’ll resort to holding increases. given Brown’s speed and elusiveness, the Bills would be wise to attack this match-up vertically this week. If Humphrey gives Brown a cushion, then quarterback Josh Allen could have some easy pitch-and-catch with his top target.