The Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens kick off their Week 4 matchup at 1:00 PM Eastern on Sunday. Both teams sit at 2-1 and still seek to stamp their place as leaders in the AFC. Here are the things i’m paying attention to when I watch Sunday’s game.
How can the Bills stop quarterback Lamar Jackson?
While the former MVP hasn’t given people a reason to doubt his abilities, there are still some who don’t believe the threat is as dangerous through the air as it is on the ground. But this season at home, Jackson has a passer rating of 142.6 while completing 21 passes out of 29 attempts, adding three touchdowns to zero interceptions (ten TDs and two INTs on the season). The threat is definitely there. Buffalo is still struggling with the injury bug on defense, and that could prove to be a problem facing such a dynamic player like Jackson.
I also believe this is going to be the first true test for the improved defensive line of the Bills against a rushing attack that can be just as effective as some passing attacks. Through three games, Jackson has 243 yards rushing on just 26 attempts. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, safety Micah Hyde, and other key players missing from the defense will most certainly play a factor in the outcome. Linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano will need to do a great job in coverage with Mark Andrews, and also by supporting the defensive line in the run game. Head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier have typically schemed well against the former MVP. We’ll see if they can continue to keep Jackson contained.
Can the Ravens’ secondary step up and stop quarterback Josh Allen?
Josh Allen is coming off of a 400-yard passing game while also rushing for another 47 yards. A lot can be said to how dominant both QBs in this game can be both in the air and on the ground. But the feeling around the league and in Buffalo is that Allen has the arm and proper weapons on offense to take advantage of the Ravens’ secondary. Baltimore’s defensive backfield has given up over 1,000 yards in three games to teams that aren’t believed to have studs at the QB position. Former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 300-plus yards, but just couldn’t find a way to get the ball in the end zone more than once. Tua Tagovailoa had the game of his career in Baltimore, throwing for 469 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. There is reason to be optimistic about this aspect of the game if you are a Bills fan.
Will the weather be a factor?
Last Sunday, the Bills faced extreme heat and humidity in Miami. This week, forecasts show a 90% chance of rain at game time with winds expected to be about 14 mph. As a Bills fan, you feel good about the team’s offense in the rain. Allen traditionally has performed well in any type of weather aside from the wind storm game in Buffalo against the New England Patriots. But rain especially hasn’t been much of a factor in his performance passing the ball. The same can be said for Jackson. He’s struggled at times early in his career but, for the most part, he puts on a show and he is elusive enough to make guys miss, slip and slide. I expect this game to be messy. Rain will increase the odds of fumbles and dropped passes. I expect Buffalo to continue being aggressive getting to the QB without using the blitz, leaving six or seven defenders to drop in coverage with a spy on Jackson. This has created problems for the Ravens in the past. Will it be the case this weekend?
Buffalo Rumblings SGP, Week 4
Even with a loss, the Bills’ offense put up gaudy numbers against the Dolphins in a week where their number-one wide receiver was suffering from full body cramps. We saw wide receiver Gabe Davis drop a routine touchdown reception where Allen put the ball exactly where it needed to be for a conversion. Miscues on special teams and missed opportunities meant Buffalo didn’t put up points like we’ve come to expect. But the statistics were staggering. I don’t expect that to change this week with Baltimore’s underperforming secondary. I’m picking the Bills to win, while adding Allen to throw for more than 275 yards. To make things sweeter, I believe an anytime touchdown from Davis should be expected, as he’s going to want redemption for the dropped touchdown in Miami.