This weekend’s four divisional round playoff games are hotly anticipated, but none look as close as Saturday’s prime-time game between the Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens. Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson are two of the NFL’s most dangerous young quarterbacks. Sean McDermott and John Harbaugh are two of the league’s most respected veteran coaches. But only one team can qualify for the AFC Championship to try to represent the conference at the Super Bowl.
Can Allen build on his MVP-caliber season with another big night, this time against a fiery Ravens secondary? Or is Jackson ready to show off his All-Pro speed en route to his second straight playoff victory? We will find out soon enough. In the meantime, if you’re wondering how to log in or what clashes might decide Saturday’s showdown, we’ve got you covered with the info below:
How to watch
Dated: Saturday January 16 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Site: Bills Stadium (Orchard Park, New York)
TV: NBC | Flux: fuboTV (Try for free)
To follow: CBS Sports app
When the Bills have the ball
It might sound obvious, but Buffalo’s game largely rests in the hands of Josh Allen. The Ravens are no slouch on the defensive end of the ball, despite a few notable leaks during the regular season (see: Dec. 14, when they gave the Browns 42). They rank # 6 against the pass and # 8 against the run. They have fiery competitors in high school. And they love to put the heat first.
So it’s up to Allen not only to manage the ball in what could be a low-scoring, weather-affected battle, but also show their characteristic aggressiveness when the opportunity arises. When the Ravens blitz, for example, Allen can’t afford to fall into turnovers considering how Baltimore is able to hold possession for long stretches. But it’s his arm, above all else, that needs to shine if the Bills are to beat a race-heavy Ravens team, so he’ll have to look to shoot when the extra pressure comes in.
Baltimore has proven particularly vulnerable against running backs and tight ends in the passing game, so if Buffalo is to exploit those holes, Devin Singletary and Dawson Knox could play a bigger role than expected. This assumes, of course, that Stefon Diggs always gets his fair share of away targets. This game plan, you may have noticed, is not much different from the one the Bills execute on a regular basis; Allen just needs to perform it well against a good “D” in potentially snowy conditions.
When the Ravens have the ball
They should run, run and run again. We all marvel when Lamar Jackson throws a deep ball with a flick of the wrist, but two stats paint the full picture here: The Ravens are the best running ground team in the NFL, and the Bills are just below the middle (No. 17) defend the race. It doesn’t get much more obvious than that. Obviously, if Jackson is going to beat Josh Allen on the road, he’s going to have to make some key shots. But that doesn’t have to be a game where he at win it all with his arm.
Add to that the fact that Buffalo could accommodate snow and wind on Saturday night, and there’s even more reason for the Ravens to rely on what they do best. Greg Roman has plenty of ways to feed his plethora of ball carriers – Jackson included – and the Bills, for all their talent at the back, have proven to be vulnerable to big opposing running games at several points this year. Sprinkle game action and shoot here or there, but it really couldn’t be much easier for Baltimore: keep the ball on the ground, consume the time on methodical workouts, and Make the Bills must throw the ball late.
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It really is such a tossup. The Bills have the firepower to hit big plays against the otherwise solid Baltimore “D”. The Ravens have the rush to slash Buffalo down the road. Ultimately it could be up to the QBs, and honestly the safest bet could be Allen, who is more effective as a true passer. The Bills also have the advantage of playing at home on an extra day off. But you know what? Jackson’s legs, coupled with those of every other Ravens runner, should still give Baltimore a slight advantage.
Take: Ravens 26, Bills 23