1. Clash of the 2018 QBs
Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson both came from the highly touted 2018 quarterback draft class. Allen (7th overall) and Jackson (32nd overall) were drafted after Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.
In their first two NFL seasons, it became apparent that both shared an athletic ability as talented mobile quarterbacks. Although during the 2020 season, one has relied more on his arm for offensive production and the other has continued to produce explosive plays with his legs. Allen set the Bills franchise record with 4,544 passing yards. Jackson finished the regular season with 159 carries for 1,005 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Allen added 421 rushing yards on 102 carries with eight rushing touchdowns. The two showcased their quick feet on Wild Card Weekend, but Jackson took the cake rushing for 136 yards to Allen's 54.
The two have proven their strengths in their third NFL season, and each picked up their first playoff win over the weekend. Jackson led his QB draft class in rushing yards (1,005) this season, and Allen led the class in passing yards (4,544), passing touchdowns (37) , passer rating (107.2) and completion percentage (69.2%). In an article by NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks, Brooks believes Allen and Jackson are the only two quarterbacks from the 2018 class that without question deserve a long-term extension.
Long-term extension? Yes. The Bills are vying to take over the post-Tom Brady AFC East, with Allen playing lights-out at the position. He gives Bills Mafia the rough and rugged leader they've coveted since Jim Kelly's retirement, while adding a running dimension to the playbook that makes Buffalo's offense even more potent. Considering how much he has grown since entering the league as a cannon-armed wild man out of Wyoming, the Bills should continue to bet on No. 17's potential as a QB1.
Long-term extension? Yes. It is easy to nitpick Jackson's game due to his unconventional playing style and lack of playoff success, but there's no disputing his production or overall impact on the Ravens. Just look at his .806 winning percentage. Although his passing numbers aren't up to 2019 standards this season, he still boasts a 14:5 TD-to-INT ratio. Not to mention, he's currently on pace for 932 rushing yards. Oh, and the Ravens aren't too bad at 6-3. With all that in mind, Baltimore should slide the check across the table to Jackson and lock him up as the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future.
2. A rematch from last year
The Bills faced the Ravens last year in a Week 14 matchup where Buffalo lost 24-17. It was a game where Baltimore had the lead the entire game, but the Bills never seemed too far behind. It was a defensive struggle as Buffalo totaled 209 yards and Baltimore produced just 257 yards. Lamar Jackson completed 64 percent of his passes for 145 yards, while Josh Allen completed 43 percent of his passes for 146 yards. It wasn't the best performance from either team, but a lot has changed since that Week 14 contest.
Buffalo went from being ranked 23rd averaging 19.6 points per game in 2019 to ranking second in the NFL averaging 31.3 points per game in 2020. The addition of Stefon Diggs had a lot to do with that jump in production. Diggs became the first Buffalo Bill to lead the NFL in receptions and receiving yards. The Bills also found points by drafting a wide receiver in the fourth round named Gabriel Davis and a kicker in the sixth round named Tyler Bass. The two accounted for 183 total points during the regular season, which was 36.5 percent of the team's 501 total points.
The Ravens didn't see as much of a turnaround like the Bills did from a production standpoint. On defense, in 2019, they ranked third allowing 17.6 points per game and moved up to second allowing 18.9 points per game in 2020. On offense, in 2019, Baltimore led the NFL scoring 33.2 points per game and dipped to seventh in 2020 averaging 29.3 points per game. Baltimore did add rookie running back J.K. Dobbins who has helped their rushing attack by racking up 805 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns in his first regular season.
The Bills and the Ravens definitely look different from last season. Buffalo has become a successful passing offense increasing their points per game average by 11.7 from last season, which is more than any team in the NFL. Although Baltimore had a dip in their offense this season, the Ravens remained as one of the best offenses and defenses in the NFL. Like Buffalo, the Ravens bolstered their defensive line by adding players like Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. One thing that is true of both teams, their third-year quarterbacks are proving to be the right fits within their clubs. We will see if either team puts on a better performance on Saturday than they did in Week 14 of last year.
3. Elite matchups on display
It will be a strength on strength type of matchup on Saturday night. Buffalo excels at throwing the football, and Baltimore is one of the best at stopping the pass. The Bills will yet again face a top 10 defense, but this season Buffalo has come away undefeated (5-0) in those matchups.
Buffalo has faced the Rams, Chargers, 49ers, Steelers and Colts this season when those defenses ranked in the top 10. In those five games, the Bills have averaged 29.8 points per game and Josh Allen completed 71 percent of his passes.
The Bills will be tested again by a Baltimore defense that allowed 329.8 total yards per game during the regular season, which was seventh-best in the league. They also allowed 221 passing yards a game, which is sixth least. All-Pro corners Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey have helped lead a defense that allowed just 18.9 points per game (2nd) and 22 passing touchdowns (t-5th) during the regular season.
Improvement from Allen, plus the addition of new weapons has helped Buffalo's offense blossom. Allen has connected on more than 70 percent of his passes against top 10 defenses because he can rely on receivers like Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis who are tough to cover in man or zone. Beasley totaled more than 100 receiving yards against the Rams and 49ers, and Diggs racked more than 100 receiving yards against the Steelers and Colts, proving they play their best against the top competition.
In an article previewing the game, Around the NFL’s Gregg Rosenthal thinks if Beasley is closer to being fully healthy than he was on Saturday, the Bills will have a better chance against Baltimore's defense.
Hopefully, Buffalo receiver Cole Beasley, who's been dealing with a knee injury, is closer to full health this week, because he wasn't moving at full speed against the Colts on Saturday. If Beasley is right, the Bills can threaten the Ravens' secondary depth with four quality wideouts. No one can cover Stefon Diggs one-on-one, while Gabriel Davis and John Brown can also get deep. That's dangerous against a Ravens team that blitzes plenty and leaves its cornerbacks vulnerable.
4. Two of the NFL's hottest teams
The divisional round of the playoffs will feature two teams who ended the regular season on a high note and have continued that into the playoffs. Buffalo is riding a seven-game win streak, and Baltimore has won the last six games. The Bills lost two straight games to the Titans and the Chiefs and are one Hail Murray away from a 10-game win streak to end the regular season. The Ravens faced a three-game losing streak during the regular season where they lost to the Patriots, Titans and Steelers. Lamar Jackson missed the Steelers game due to COVID-19, but since then his team has been red hot.
After Buffalo's last loss in Week 10 and their Week 11 bye, the Bills have led the NFL averaging 37.9 points per game and ranked second averaging 420.9 total yards per game. Following Baltimore's final loss of the regular season in Week 12, the Ravens went on to average 37.2 points a game (2nd) and 430.4 total yards per game (4th). One of these hot streaks will come to an end as the two dual-threat quarterbacks from the 2018 draft class will battle it out on Saturday.
On NFL Network's Good Morning Football, Mike Robinson said it's tough to defend Josh Allen when he's on.
"The way that this kid in this game responded to adversity, he never really got down on himself," Robinson said. "There were some bad plays, he had some bad plays that you thought that last year he would turn into kind of a really bad play. But he fought back, he led the team in rushing with 54 yards, threw for over 320-something yards. There's not a tough pass on the football field for Josh Allen he can make every single throw. And I think Brian Daboll the offensive coordinator does a great job of trusting Josh Allen."
The Buffalo Bills partnered with Oxford Pennant to celebrate each win this season with a commemorative banner. Scroll through to see them!
5. First prime time playoff game in Buffalo
The 2020 season has been a year full of firsts for the Buffalo Bills. They will continue their streak of firsts by hosting the first prime time playoff game in Buffalo. Saturday's game against the Ravens is slated for an 8:15 p.m. ET start.
Before this season, the latest prime time game the Bills hosted was on December 17, 2005 when Buffalo played the Denver Broncos on Saturday night and lost 28 to 17. Bills Stadium will open up its seats to another 6,772 fans who get to watch their team in the divisional round this weekend. Many Bills players expressed how happy they were to see Bills Mafia at the game on Saturday.
"It was amazing, honestly," Dion Dawkins said. "When I came out of the tunnel I just paused and looked around and thought man, it feels good to have you back. I'm just happy for all the young guys, the new guys like Stefon Diggs, Zack Moss, Gabe Davis, T-Bass (Tyler Bass). All those guys who haven't felt what it feels like to be part of it, they felt it today. The 6,700 that came showed out, they represented the full capacity today. It feels so good to have the mafia here, and I'm extremely happy that they got to experience and I got to experience it."