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Bills vs Ravens: Five questions with Baltimore Beatdown

What’s behind Lamar Jackson’s MVP-caliber start to the season?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills are on the road again this weekend, heading to Maryland to face the Baltimore Ravens in a 1:00 PM Eastern showdown that’s full of hype. Most of the country will see Sunday’s game, and for good reason—quarterbacks Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson are ascending, elite NFL players at the game’s most important position.

DraftKings SportsBook has the Bills as 3.5-point favorites to win this weekend, despite Buffalo losing a low-scoring affair to the Dolphins and the Ravens putting up 37-plus points two weeks in a row. So, we’re either in for a low-scoring close affair, or a barn burner featuring two of the NFL’s hottest and most dangerous teams.

To find out a little more about these Baltimore Ravens we spoke with Kyle Barber, Managing Editor at Baltimore Beatdown.

1. Among the game’s best at quarterback, Lamar Jackson currently leads the NFL in touchdown passes and appears well on his way toward another MVP-type season at minimum, having won AFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for September. What, if anything, have you witnessed as a defining trait within Jackson’s game to account for his maturation so far this season?

“This feels like the culmination of all efforts by the team and Jackson toward developing into a full-fledged quarterback. The defining trait, I’d argue, is the accuracy and deep-throw ability. Jackson was up-and-down with deep throws in previous years. Sometimes he’d drop a dime into Marquise “Hollywood” Brown’s arms and others he was overthrowing a leaping Mark Andrews. Now, he’s connecting with his pass-catchers in stride and executing at a high rate.

Pats Pulpit readers laughed at me and stated I was being a homer when I said Jackson is a greater threat in the pocket than on the run last week. Jackson proceeded to carve up the Patriots as he’s done the previous two weeks and now leads in passing touchdowns (10) and quarterback rating (119.0). I think Bills fans can understand a bit more, as they’ve seen the development of Josh Allen in some similar fashions to Jackson.”

2. Fill us in a little bit about Baltimore’s offense. Apart from the obvious role Jackson plays, do things still largely run through the tight ends—or has there been a paradigm shift in scheme under Greg Roman?

“I’d say yes, there has been a change under Roman.

Jackson and the offense are operating differently. You’re seeing the wide receivers more heavily utilized. Hell, they have six of his ten receiving touchdowns. They’re also throwing downfield at a higher rate and the passing offense isn’t ‘find No. 89 somewhere.’

Now, Andrews still accounts for a significant portion of their offense. But, that’s not because they’re just hoping for Andrews to salvage the passing attack. It’s because he’s the best tight end in football and an average day for him is 80 yards and a touchdown.”

3. Okay, so as it is the case with the Bills and Allen, outsiders to the Ravens tend to talk a lot about Lamar Jackson. So, who are two players—one on offense, one defense—not named Lamar Jackson who BillsMafia should know about, and watch closely on Sunday?

Wide receiver Devin Duvernay has scored a touchdown (or two) in each game this season, and has done so in different ways. He’s high-pointed and out-muscled cornerbacks in the end zone. He’s simply burnt his man on a crossing pattern and he also ran back the opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown. Many wondered if Duvernay could become more than a star special teams player. He’s accomplished all that and more.

On defense, a lot will be on the shoulders of second-year linebacker Odafe Oweh. He looked brilliant in training camp. He arguably generated the most pressures of any defensive player. But it has yet to translate to the regular season, where he has 11 pressures, all hurries. The Ravens need him to get going and this is a critical game for him to make a name for himself.

4. Given Lamar Jackson’s outstanding performances already this season and the way the team has played to this point, are you at all surprised the Ravens are a +3.5 home dog to the mash-unit Bills, per DraftKings Sportsbook?

I think Ravens +2.5 makes a bit more sense here with the way Jackson and the offense have performed and the always-reliable Justin Tucker helping to keep points on the board anytime they cross midfield. But, the Bills are the favorite for a reason and it’s going to be a true test for this offense to go against a star-studded pass rush.

5. The Bills have had decent success defensively against Lamar Jackson’s incredible talents. Is there any reason to suggest things will play out differently this time, with Jackson getting the better of Buffalo?

I think it’s not so much on Jackson as it is the offensive line. Jackson has managed to uplift this team through three games and work with his better receiving options, but the Ravens are now down to their fourth-string tackle, rookie Daniel Faalele, if Ronnie Stanley isn’t playing. It doesn’t appear so, with Stanley missing Friday’s practice.

Putting Faalele, a rookie who didn’t play a snap of left tackle in college against the likes of future Hall of Fame pass rusher Von Miller is a recipe for disaster. I think this has the makings of a high-scoring chaotic affair and it won’t be so much about the Bills’ defense hampering Jackson as it will be the Ravens defense desperately needing to step up after their pass defense struggles tracing back to last year.

Our thanks to Kyle Barber and of course Baltimore Beatdown for their help answering this week’s Five Questions. Head over to their blog to see my response to Kyle’s Five Questions with Buffalo Rumblings.