After dominating Titans’ No. 2 rushing attack, Ravens to be tested by Bills’ No. 3 passing attack

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Matthew Stevens
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The road to Super Bowl LV will be a difficult one for the Baltimore Ravens. Much like a video game, the Ravens will have to face completely different and difficult tests each week to prove their mettle. A week after facing the second-best rushing attack in the NFL in the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore will face the third-best passing attack in the Buffalo Bills.

The Ravens did a masterful job containing Titans running back Derrick Henry last week. While Henry broke the 2,000-yard mark in the regular season, Baltimore was able to hold the top back to just 40 rushing yards and no touchdowns on 18 carries, giving him the third-worst single-game yards-per-carry average of his career as a starter.

Now in the divisional round, the Ravens have the Bills’ high-flying passing attack to handle. They’ve been red hot with quarterback Josh Allen under center and both Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley catching passes. Over the last four weeks, Buffalo has averaged 343 passing yards while Allen has thrown 11 touchdown passes to just one interception.

After getting bounced from the playoffs last season by Tennessee and Henry, the Ravens used this offseason to improve their run defense. They traded for Calais Campbell, signed Derek Wolfe, and moved Brandon Williams back inside where he was significantly better against the run. Baltimore clearly planned to revamp their run defense and it paid off big. The same can’t be said for the pass defense, however.

Shortly before the regular season kicked off, the Ravens parted ways with Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas. While safety DeShon Elliott has been phenomenal this season, he’s a strong safety and doesn’t quite have Thomas’ coverage abilities. That alone wouldn’t be too bad but Baltimore has been as beat up as any team in the league at cornerback.

The Ravens have placed a total of five cornerbacks on injured reserve this season. Though they’ve gotten Anthony Averett and Terrell Bonds back off injured reserve and Baltimore has gotten healthier at the start of the playoffs, the secondary is still ailing a bit. Cornerback Marcus Peters missed practice both Tuesday and Wednesday with a back injury, after missing weeks 15 and 16. Fellow cornerback Jimmy Smith missed the final three games of the regular season while Marlon Humphrey has been frequently featured on the injury report for the last few weeks.

Baltimore has been hot-and-cold against top passing attacks this season. Against the top-rated Kansas City Chiefs, quarterback Patrick Mahomes carved up the Ravens’ secondary to the tune of 385 passing yards, four touchdown passes, and no interceptions. Against the fourth-ranked Houston Texans, Baltimore dominated quarterback Deshaun Watson, holding him to just 375 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The eighth-ranked Dallas Cowboys found some success through the air against the Ravens while the 11th-ranked Indianapolis Colts didn’t. But Buffalo’s passing attack is more like the Chiefs and Mahomes than Watson or Philip Rivers.

Allen and the Bills’ passing attack is brilliant when given time to throw and they’re also fantastic when pressured. While I’d expect defensive coordinator Don Martindale to draw up a great gameplan to stymie the MVP candidate with disguised coverages and aggressive blitzes, much of it is going to rely on the Ravens’ secondary executing at a high level throughout the entire game. One lapse can mean a touchdown or a pass interference penalty that gifts Buffalo points or great field position. And in the playoffs, one bad play can be the difference between playing the next week or watching the game on the couch.

Though Baltimore should be nervous about this matchup, there’s a silver lining here as well. Just like with the Titans, beating the Bills would go a long way to answering some of the biggest questions about the Ravens. If Baltimore’s defense can prove it can contain the best running back and one of the best quarterbacks in the game in back-to-back weeks while the offense is hitting its stride, you’d have to think the Ravens would be the favorites in the AFC Championship Game and even Super Bowl LV.

We’ll find out if Baltimore can rise to the occasion once again this week and if they’re truly Super Bowl contenders.

List

Ravens vs. Bills: 7 fun facts about this divisional round matchup