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Bills vs. Ravens opponent preview—Baltimore’s pass defense

Ups and downs abound

Syndication: The Providence Journal Kris Craig/The Providence Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

When the Buffalo Bills face the Baltimore Ravens, two of the league’s premiere offenses will face off to jockey for early positioning in the AFC playoff race.

It’s a little early to have a ton of validity in stats, but a few trends may be starting to shake out. For the Ravens, their pass defense seems to be a tantalizing matchup for the Bills. Baltimore is currently tied for the third-worst yards per passing attempt in the league at 7.8. They’re also third-worst at allowing passing touchdowns (seven allowed).

Interestingly enough though, the Ravens lead the league in interceptions with six. With Buffalo still banged up, can they take advantage of what appears to be a weaker passing defense? Let’s see how things played out for Baltimore against the New England Patriots.

Play 1

One of the culprits for the bad yards-per-pass metric seems to be a tendency to allow chunk plays. What happened to the Ravens versus the Miami Dolphins has been well covered, but a similar thing happened against the Patriots. Three players all had catches of 26 or more yards. Wide receiver DeVante Parker averaged over 30 yards per catch with five receptions. His shortest catch went for 24 yards.

Play 2

One thing you might notice as a trend with the play selections: The Ravens are a team that seems to like keeping things in front of them. Four defensive backs are at or behind the line to gain spying forward. It’s hard to say that quarterback Mac Jones didn’t find his best option but, with everyone staring at the ball and ready to crash, the result is short. Like we’ve seen with Buffalo, allowing some yards but short of the sticks can hurt your yards-per-pass average.

Play 3

Let’s go back to the chunk plays a minute. A receiver averaging over 30 yards per catch isn’t just a team letting guys make catches short of the sticks. I’ll go on record and say that against the Patriots, the Ravens had a real man-coverage problem. A lot of the big catches were simply their guy getting beat. You can see the separation on this route, and no one underneath is clogging lanes to discourage this throw.

Play 4

Here’s one more example of a Ravens defender getting beat one-on-one. Feel free to dissect this further in the comments.

Play 5

Some of the same traits that lead to Baltimore’s defense giving up yards also helps them get interceptions. Bills fans have seen this too. With so many eyes up front, it’s easier for the defense to capitalize on mistakes.


I don’t think anyone will be surprised if the Bills-Ravens contest turns into a shootout. While Buffalo’s defense is highly respected, the Ravens can stress even good teams. Due to the Bills struggling with injuries, it could be problematic. The Ken Dorsey-led offense has, to this point, been as pass-oriented as we all expected. The good news is they’ll face off against a Ravens defense that should allow some opportunities.