The Baltimore Ravens have a tough test ahead of them in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The Ravens are traveling up to Buffalo to take on the Bills and their impressive passing attack led by quarterback Josh Allen.
As I wrote earlier, Baltimore is having equally tough but opposite tests in back-to-back weeks. After stopping the Tennessee Titans and running back Derrick Henry, the script flips as the Ravens now need to stymie the third-best passing attack in the game led by an MVP candidate in Allen.
Though Baltimore did beat Buffalo last season, both of these teams look and act dramatically different than in that contest. So to get some insight on what the Bills have going on right now and what the Ravens might need to do to win, I sat down with Bills Wire managing editor Nick Wojton.
Josh Allen showed flashes last season but he's hit a completely different level this season. What has changed for the third-year QB?
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The short answer is Jordan Palmer, Brian Daboll, and Stefon Diggs is your answer. Palmer is Allen's offseason QB coach and Allen himself credits the work he did with Palmer during the summer as a huge factor in changing up his mechanics, naturally improving his throwing and accuracy. Then in terms of Daboll and Diggs, the offensive coordinator and No. 1 wide receiver help Allen and the Bills immensely on game day. Diggs, you can see his efforts, but the game plans and plays being called for the Bills have typically been spot on this year.
What happened to the defense to go from No. 2 last year to the middle of the pack this season?
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Early on they were pretty bad and couldn't stop the run. It's still an issue because in 2020 the Bills' best run defense is Allen getting up big on opponents so naturally those same opponents no longer can run the ball on offense. Another reason was some early-season injuries to linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano. Both are healthier now and that helps.
Zach Moss is out, meaning Devin Singletary will be the lead back. What differences were there between those two RBs and what should the Ravens be expecting this week on the ground?
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Moss is the one-cut, physical back. Devin Singletary in Buffalo gets a LeSean McCoy comparison. He's not close to Shady's skill, but they play the same type of game. Singletary will use his agility more than trying to go through a player. The Ravens should expect little on the ground, though. That's nothing against Singletary, but Buffalo's offensive line is a weird one. They legitimately pass protect well, but their run-blocking abilities usually leave something to be desired.
I'm going to assume Cole Beasley will play after a gutsy performance last week. How do the Ravens need to play him and Stefon Diggs to get the best of them both?
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Find some luck, pretty much. Diggs has been unstoppable this season. It's something the Bills aren't used to seeing from any receiver. Beasley has been reliable as they come, too. The best bet is to rush Allen but don't send extra rushers.
Josh Allen and the Bills had a terrible game against the Titans in Week 5. What could the Ravens learn from that game to use this week and what were just one-off issues?
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The Bills had some key players missing on defense that day and it was a very bad thing. Tre'Davious White and Milano missed the game and then on maybe the third or fourth snap, Levi Wallace went down. Basically Buffalo's secondary was left to Josh Norman and that went as expected. Those guys not playing made things far too easy for both Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. But in terms of what the Ravens can control? Turnovers. The Bills had a couple via Allen interceptions. That game was also a Tuesday game due to COVID rescheduling so perhaps that weirdness played a factor as well, something the Ravens will be all too familiar with having to do.
Who's that one unknown guy that Baltimore fans should be looking out for in this game?
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By this time I've already mentioned him a couple of times but my pick for this is usually Milano. He's one of the better coverage linebacker in the NFL but actually had a bad game last week in this area. Milano vs. Mark Andrews is certainly a matchup I'm watching. I'll give another on offense as well: Gabe Davis has impressed recently, even more so than John Brown at wide receiver.
What's your final score prediction for this game?
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Such a tough one to call and I've gone back and forth on it so much just this week. My mood right now is pointing me to the Ravens. While playing into the weather factor usually isn't a big deal, it might in this one and I think it will play into Lamar's hands (or feet) a lot more. Ravens 28, Bills 24.