With the Ravens aiming to finish their early AFC East gauntlet on a high note against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen becoming two of the best quarterbacks on the planet is a testament to overcoming criticism — fair or unfair. Both are unconventional, but their teams are lucky to have them. And we’re excited to watch them square off again.
2. With that in mind, how is a game between AFC heavyweights who could meet again in January not being played at 4:25 p.m. at the very least? Even before the Mac Jones injury, was a national audience really fired up to watch New England-Green Bay?
3. Ronnie Stanley is practicing fully and “very close” to returning, but I keep going back to John Harbaugh describing how Stanley’s “going to have to jump in at some point.” Facing Buffalo’s pass rush in the rain isn’t ideal, but the NFL simply doesn’t offer many “homecoming” matchups.
4. This marks the fourth straight Baltimore-Buffalo meeting with disruptive conditions in the forecast. Given how heavily both offenses have leaned on the passing game to move the ball and score points, the rain could make things interesting. Greg Roman noted that the Ravens practiced with wet footballs on Thursday.
5. During Jackson’s historic MVP season, the Ravens passed on first down just 38% of the time. Baltimore is dropping back to pass on 52% of its first-down plays so far this season. Between that and Jackson operating under center more often, we’re seeing a more dynamic offense.
6. According to the Ravens, this is the second team in NFL history to have three players with 90 career sacks apiece, joining the 1994 Packers team that had Reggie White, Sean Jones, and Steve McMichael. You hope such pedigree sparks more pass-rush production with Jason Pierre-Paul’s arrival.
7. Losing Michael Pierce is a tough blow to a run defense that’s underperformed so far, but the Bills rely heavily on Allen’s legs for rushing production and rank last in the NFL in rushing efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. Pierce’s absence shouldn’t be a big factor this week.
8. Then again, watching Jones scramble against Baltimore last week makes the thought of Allen escaping the pocket and running around a scary one. As Mike Macdonald said, “It’s a numbers issue plus his skill as a runner and just being so big and being able to get on the edge.”
9. Reminiscent of the 2021 Ravens with its injury concerns, the Buffalo secondary has its own potential nightmare with the way Jackson is throwing the football while averaging 9.3 yards per carry. Even with the rain in the forecast, this feels like a shootout in the making.
10. The Bills play almost exclusively in the nickel package — with nickel corner Taron Johnson earning high praise from Roman this week — and rank first in coverage efficiency against tight ends. However, they haven’t faced a tight end remotely like Mark Andrews.
11. After shredding blitzes the last two weeks, Jackson faces a Buffalo defense ranking last in the league in blitz rate, according to Pro Football Reference. This offensive line has been strong in pass protection, but Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, and Boogie Basham will be a problem — with or without Stanley.
12. The Bills face a quarterback playing at a different level than the one they stymied in the 2020 postseason. As former NFL quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan described this week, Jackson is reading the whole field and masterfully operating out of a more expansive passing game this season.