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Bills vs. Ravens preview: Five Buffalo players to watch

Another difficult road matchup awaits a beaten-up Buffalo squad. Can they bounce back?

NFL: SEP 25 Bills at Dolphins Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The last time the Buffalo Bills met the Baltimore Ravens, it was during the 2020 NFL Playoffs. It was a weird scene, as just over 6,000 fans were allowed inside Highmark Stadium to see the game. They were treated to a classic, as Buffalo’s defense stepped up big-time, and the offense did just enough to give the team a 17-3 victory.

Both Buffalo and Baltimore are different squads than they were back then, although the most important players—the dynamic, MVP-caliber quarterbacks—remain. Coming off a loss to the Miami Dolphins last week, the Bills need to bounce back with a big win against a tough conference foe.

How can they earn that victory this weekend? They’ll need big performances from their key players, plus better execution on the offensive end than they had last weekend. Here are the five players we’ll be watching closely on Sunday.

QB Josh Allen

In Buffalo, Allen is MVP candidate 1A, and he’s facing off against MVP candidate 1B this week in quarterback Lamar Jackson. In Baltimore, that order may be flip-flopped, but we’ll let Baltimore Beatdown tell that side of the story this week. As great as Allen has been this year, there were plays left on the field last Sunday. In the first two weeks, Allen was in a zone where he was essentially perfect. He skipped a few throws against Miami, and he had a touchdown pass dropped, too. He still managed to throw for 400 yards and two scores, though, and he led the team in rushing as well. Baltimore’s defense has been porous thus far, especially against the pass, so Allen definitely has some matchups to exploit. With wide receivers Gabe Davis and Jake Kumerow both looking iffy for the game, though, he may have to attack Baltimore’s secondary with a limited receiving group. Regardless of who’s out there for Buffalo, as long as Allen is on the field, they have a great chance to win the game. I expect another 300-yard game this week.

TE Dawson Knox

With Davis and Kumerow limited this week, most of the attention for the Ravens will shift to wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Most of the attention is on Diggs normally, but it will be amplified if Allen’s second outside option is out. We could look for more out of wide receivers Isaiah McKenzie or Jamison Crowder, but it’s Knox who could cause plenty of damage if he sees a few more targets this week. Especially if Baltimore commits extra help to the outside to slow Diggs, expect Knox to see some one-on-one looks. He’s been slowed by foot, hip, and back injuries so far this year, but he’s gutted through them.

60% of the Offensive Line

Everyone from the center on down to the right tackle will be under scrutiny this week. For starters, who will the starters be? Will center Mitch Morse be back? Right guard Ryan Bates practiced in limited fashion on Thursday—will he clear concussion protocol? If Morse is healthy, does Greg Van Roten start at right guard, or is it Bobby Hart—fresh off a one-game suspension for punching a Tennessee Titans coach in the head? What about newly-acquired offensive lineman Justin Murray? Will right tackle Spencer Brown start after some really poor performances so far this season, or will David Quessenberry be the right tackle? If Brown starts, do the Bills play Quessenberry at right guard? Fortunately, tackle Dion Dawkins and guard Rodger Saffold have been solid on the left side, but the right side has been a mess of moving parts so far this season. If the Ravens emulate the Miami game plan by crashing that side, thereby preventing Allen from rolling to the right, that side of the line will be under even more pressure. Whatever combination plays, they need to play well.

LB Matt Milano

It’s either going to be Milano or linebacker Tremaine Edmunds with the unenviable task of spying Lamar Jackson (and sure, perhaps they’ll use a defensive back, too), but we’ll give some love to Milano this week after highlighting Edmunds against Miami. Milano is Buffalo’s best linebacker, and he continues to make big plays in both the running game and the passing game. Unfortunately, he had a shot to make a HUGE play last week, but he let a surefire pick-six slip through his hands. Milano has 14 tackles, one tackle for a loss, an interception that he returned for a touchdown, and two pass breakups this year. He’ll have his hands full between spying Jackson and covering tight end Mark Andrews, but his success will go a long way towards dictating Buffalo’s success on defense.

S Jaquan Johnson

After a not-so-good week against the Dolphins, Johnson could have All-Pro safety Jordan Poyer next to him this week rather than fellow reserve safety Damar Hamlin. However, Baltimore is absolutely going to try to stress Johnson when they can, as he showed last week that he can be manipulated into allowing some deeper throws. Jackson has the arm strength to make any throw anywhere on the field, and while wide receiver Rashod Bateman isn’t the same caliber of Miami wide receivers Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle, Jackson is far better than Tua Tagovailoa. If Buffalo uses Johnson as a spy, robber, or blitzer, though, rather than putting him as the deep guy? That could help to harass Jackson to the point where he won’t have time to do much damage. How the Bills utilize Johnson should be a fun point of emphasis to watch this week.