BALTIMORE at BUFFALO
Overview These teams met late in the 2018 at this stadium, with Baltimore winning 24-17. That was a defensive game, with both teams passing for fewer than 150 yards and neither running game dominating. The Ravens ...
... finished with only 257 yards of offense (key play: 61-yard touchdown to Hayden Hurst). The Bills finished with only 209 yards (250 yards if you set aside 41 yards lost on sacks). ... The betting line suggests this will be the closest game of the week. Buffalo opened as a 3-point favorite, but it's dropped to 2.5 points (with an over-under of 50). ... Weather could affect this game. The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 30s, a 40 percent chance of snow and winds of about 10 mph.
This looks like a favorable enough matchup for Baltimore's offense. Maybe above average. Buffalo's defense was only average in the regular season, and it had all kinds of problems with Indianapolis on Saturday. The Colts controlled the majority of that game but frittered it away on a few key plays. The Ravens look like they'll be able to do a lot of the same things, and with a better defense. ...
This report is taken from today's Week 19 edition of Fantasy Index Weekly (for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs). The newsletter includes our player rankings for the wildcard games, plus 10 pages of matchup previews, plus stat projections and custom rankings for the games being played this weekend.
This edition is focused only on the teams and matchups in the divisional round -- not cumulative through the Super Bowl.
... Baltimore has won six in a row, and the offense has scored 25 touchdowns in those games. All of those wins were against flawed opposition, but this is a hot team that's playing with confidence. Ravens definitely look like the road team with the best chance of springing an upset. ... Lamar Jackson isn't a good passer, and he's not helped in that regard by Baltimore's stodgy scheme (with limited pass-catching talent around him and a seemingly flawed system). He's averaged only 177 passing yards in his last 15 games. Every other team in the league averaged at least 195 passing yards in the regular season. But the Ravens have conceded they're not a dropback-passing team and have focused their efforts in other areas. They don't want Jackson passing for 250 yards or even 200. As a passer, Jackson has finished under 200 passing yards in 11 of his last 14 games. Of the eight teams playing this week, the Ravens likely will finish last in passing yards (if the Rams really struggle at Lambeau, maybe next-to-last). And put Jackson down for 1-2 TD passes. He's thrown 23 in his last 15 games. Buffalo ranked 13th against the pass in the regular season, allowing 23 TD passes. It's Jackson's ability as a scrambler that puts him in the discussion to be one of the best quarterbacks of the week. There are a bunch of other good ones playing, of course, but Jackson potentially could overcome his lack of passing production by running for 150 yards and a couple of touchdowns. The Ravens understand that's his strength, so they'll use him often in that capacity. Last week he matched his season high with 16 attempts, finishing with 136 yards and a touchdown. Jackson has finished with double-digit carries in nine of his last 10 games. He's averaged 82 rushing yards in his last 11 games, and with 7 TDs. The Bills probably have a little more ability than most defenses to contain this aspect of his game. They're well aware of the danger, and they did a good job against him last year (in Baltimore's win at Buffalo a year ago, Jackson carried 11 times for only 40 yards). But he's a difference maker, who's always just a play away from flipping a game. The Titans largely kept him under wraps on Sunday, yet Jackson scored on a 48-yard run and ended up at 136 rushing yards at the end. As often as he'll run, Jackson probably will put up his usual 80-plus yards, and he's run for 5 TDs in his last seven games. The scrambling dimension could be affected by the weather. If there's snow that starts sticking or even a wet field, that will reduce Jackson's ability to take full advantage of his speed -- his style of running is best on a dry surface. ... We're ranking the running backs a little higher than usual. Both J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. With Jackson being so hard to contain, they should have plenty of opportunities for successful runs. They'll be working against a defense that's average (at best) against the run. Baltimore didn't run the ball effectively at Buffalo last year, but this defense isn't as good up front. Buffalo ranked 17th against the run in the regular season, allowing 120 yards per game (and with 21 rushing touchdowns). That's 17 more yards per week than last year, and with 9 more TD runs. Baltimore definitely looks like the team most likely to score multiple rushing touchdowns this week. It's really had its run game dialed in recently, averaging 262 rushing yards in this recent six-game winning streak, with 14 rushing touchdowns (multiple scores in all but one of those games). Most of those games were against lesser run defenses, but it included running for 231 and 249 yards against the Browns and Giants, who both ranked in the top 10 against the run. It definitely looks possible that Baltimore could run for 250 yards and multiple touchdowns in this game, moving on to the conference championship. Dobbins is the one they want carrying the ball more often. He's averaged 78 rushing yards during this six-game win streak, with at least one touchdown in all of those games. He's not a factor as a receiver. Edwards has averaged 63 rushing yards during this recent winning streak, but he scored in only one of those six games. Edwards isn't much of a pass catcher, but they've been sneaking him the ball in that capacity recently. After catching only 3 passes in his first 12 games, he's now caught 6 for 87 in his last five. ... Mark Ingram ran for 1,018 yards and scored 15 TDs last year, but he's just an insurance policy nowadays. He was a healthy scratch last week, and he's carried the ball in only one of their last five games. Unless either Dobbins or Edwards gets sidelined by COVID protocols, unlikely that Ingram plays. ... With the Ravens almost always finishing with modest passing stats, it's unlikely they'll have an impact pass catcher. Marquise Brown, however, has been coming on. They've been using him more. He caught 7 passes for 109 yards last week, and that was with the team passing for only 179 yards. And this is how it's been going recently. During this late-season surge, they've been making more of an effort to get him the ball. During the team's six-game winning streak, Brown has caught 29 passes for 362 yards and 5 TDs -- basically, he's averaging 5 catches for 60 yards, with a touchdown most weeks. And Brown carried the ball twice for 19 yards on Sunday. He had only 1 carry in the regular season. He's still not a volume receiver, and with his limited size, it's tough for him to come down with contested catches. But with the kind of success the Ravens will have running the ball, some chance that at some point they hit Brown on a ball that turns into a long touchdown. ... Baltimore's other Oklahoma pass catcher, Mark Andrews, is their other big receiving weapon. He and Brown both caught 58 passes in the regular season. Andrews caught 10 touchdowns a year ago and 7 TDs this year. When the Ravens won at Buffalo a year ago, tight ends caught 2 of their 3 TDs, but Andrews got hurt and missed most of that game. For whatever it's worth, Indianapolis (with a different offense, of course) last week killed the Bills with their tight ends, with their three combining to catch 14 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown (and with only 2 incompletions). So we're ranking Andrews a little higher than usual. But he hasn't been as good recently. He opened with the season with 5 TDs in his first five games, but since that initial burst, he's caught only 2 TDs in his last 10 games (with other guys catching 13 TDs in those weeks). ... When the Ravens were rolling last year, they had other tight ends chipping in -- Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst combined for 61 catches and 4 TDs (they both scored against Buffalo). They haven't had that production this year, but Patrick Ricard might be starting to fill some of that role. He caught a season-high 3 passes last week (after catching only 9 balls in the regular season). ... The Ravens don't use their other wide receivers much. Willie Snead and Miles Boykin were both on the field for about two thirds of their plays last week, but with little impact. The only pass thrown in Boykin's direction was badly off target and intercepted. Boykin caught exactly 1 pass in each of his previous five games (3 for touchdowns, at least). Snead had a 100-yard game in the middle of the season, but in his last five games he's caught only 10 passes for 85 yards, with no touchdowns. He caught both of his targets on Sunday, but for only 4 and 5 yards. ... The other wide receivers -- Dez Bryant, Devin Duvernay -- hardly get on the field. ... There are no shoo-ins at the kicker position this week. Instead, there's a lot of parity with the top 6, and Justin Tucker definitely belongs in that group. The Ravens are a 2-point underdog, but it would be no surprise if they're able to consistently drive the ball, given Buffalo's defensive issues. If the game goes that way, Tucker should get plenty of opportunities. Strictly for talent, Tucker's about as good as anyone who's ever played the position. Weather could be an issue, but for now we're assuming it won't have a big impact. ... The Ravens Defense is a solid group -- perhaps one of the top few in the league. Only the Rams allowed fewer points in the regular season. But it doesn't look great for generating sacks and turnovers, which tend to drive most fantasy scoring systems. Baltimore had 39 sacks in the regular season, which is only slightly above average. Josh Allen took only 26 sacks in the regular season. The Ravens had a below-average 10 interceptions in the regular season, while Allen threw only 10. The numbers suggest Baltimore is definitely No. 1 in fumble potential. It recovered 12 in the regular season (the most of any team that's still alive) while the Bills lost 11, which ties for the most. But there's plenty of luck/chance involved in that category. If you put your chips on the Ravens (and there's some logic in doing so) it's with the hope that they win this game, with Allen then pressing as the Bills try to get back into the game. Baltimore doesn't have a notable kick returner (Devin Duvernay scored on a kickoff return early in the year, but he hasn't done anything recently).