1. DON'T LET IT GET TOO BIG
Buffalo's march to a playoff spot could culminate this weekend with a Bills win and some help from three other AFC games. And the Ravens bring an eight-game win streak to Orchard Park. They've just taken over the top seed in the conference.
It's a huge game in Week 14 to be sure. But veteran Bills center Mitch Morse cautions against over-reacting.
Morse played in three playoff games and plenty of big regular season games in his four years at Kansas City before coming to Buffalo. He told One Bills Live the Bills can't get caught up in the hype about Sunday's matchup.
"This is a big game, but if you over-think it, and you make it too-big of a game, you're going to play outside of yourself," Morse said. "I think the thing I was able to learn these last four years, is that you just have to be yourself, understand what works and what got you here. Even though we do have an extremely difficult schedule this last quarter of the season, we just have to understand we have a good group of dudes here and we don't have to do anything outside of the norm."
2. SMASH-MOUTH FOOTBALL IS BACK
You may want to get ready for some old-fashioned caveman football this Sunday. The Ravens and the Bills are two of the top-five rushing teams in the league this year (Baltimore is first, Buffalo is fifth). And they both run it often. Baltimore leads the league with 445 rushing attempts this year (37 runs per game). The Bills are third with 361 rushing attempts (30 per game).
ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates says expect a bruising physical matchup.
"Oh, my goodness. It feels like a game where both of these teams might need to give their teams Monday off, because there's going to be a lot of hard-hitting," Yates told One Bills Live. "This is the kind of game where nobody leaves with a clean jersey. I don't care what you're wearing, you're leaving that field with all kinds of paint and grass stains covering your jersey because it's going to be that kind of a physical game between two teams who have been outstanding so far this year."
3. THE QUARTERBACKS CARRY THE ROCK
Two of the league's top rushing quarterbacks contribute to the focus on the run for Baltimore and Buffalo. The Ravens Lamar Jackson has 977 rushing yards this year, more than five NFL teams' rushing totals. Josh Allen ranks third among quarterbacks in the league with 430 yards on the ground. Combined, they have 1,407 rushing yards, the most combined rushing yards by starting quarterbacks in any game in NFL history.
With 63 yards on the ground, Jackson would set a league record for most rushing yards in a single season by an NFL quarterback. Michael Vick has the current record, 1,039 yards, set 13 years ago.
4. NEW ERA NFL QUARTERBACKS ON DISPLAY
Jackson and Allen represent a new prototype for NFL quarterbacks. The two products of the 2018 first round are athletic, hard-charging runners who can also throw the football. The league's emerging focus on quarterbacks who can move has caught the attention of former Bills quarterback Doug Flutie.
He'll be in New Era Field Sunday as the "Legend of the Game." And Flutie, whose dynamic scrambling and playmaking helped the Bills to the playoffs in the late '90s, is jealous of the new quarterback model.
"I wish I were playing in the league now rather than 20 years ago," he told One Bills Live. "I love the spread stuff; I love the zone-read stuff. All that type of stuff we did in Canada using the quarterback in a true running game, not just a quarterback draw or a scramble. That's what Lamar (Jackson) brings."
"He is a dynamic runner. You see a jump-cut, he can make people miss like a tailback, I mean the most elusive tailbacks that have ever played in the NFL, and he can throw the football."
5. THE BILLS NEED MOTOR TO CARRY IT, TOO
The bulk of the work in the Buffalo running game is likely to fall on the shoulders of rookie running back Devin Singletary. And he looks like he can handle it.
'Motor' has shown a knack for big plays in the first nine games of his career. He averages 5.64 yards per carry which ranks third in the NFL.
And he knows where to go. Singletary averages 7.53 yards per carry outside the numbers on the field this year. That's second in the NFL.
At the top of that list—Lamar Jackson, with 8.63 yards per carry outside.
6. RAVENS TIGHT ENDS ARE KEY
Lamar Jackson is the star and running back Mark Ingram is 12th in the league in rushing. But the unheralded standouts for Baltimore's offense are the tight ends.
All three of them play. They've combined for 101 receptions this season. But their best value might be as blockers for the run game.
"The tight ends have a big role in this offense," Ravens radio analyst Dennis Pitta said this week. Pitta played tight end in Baltimore for six years. In an appearance on One Bills Live, Pitta said all three of the Ravens tight ends, Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, and Hayden Hurst, are key in the Ravens top-ranked rushing attack.
"They do a variety of roles," Pitta said. "They're involved in a lot of the misdirection, cutting off blocks on the back side, leading the front side on runs and doing so many different things, it gives defenses fits."
7. DIVISION TITLE DREAMING?
Obviously, a wild-card playoff spot is the likeliest outcome for the Bills push. But some Bills fans may be holding onto dreams of an AFC East title.
If so, the Patriots 4:25 pm game in Foxboro against the Chiefs is critical. New England finishes the season at Cincinnati, home against the Bills, then home against Miami. So, this one against the Chiefs is important for Buffalo's hopes.
And with a 2-2 record in the last month, and significant offensive struggles for New England, the Patriots hold on the division might be in play.
"There's definitely blood in the water right now, I'm not going to tell you there isn't," says the NFL Network's Kyle Brandt. He told One Bills Live he sees Tom Brady struggling to find reliable targets in the passing game, and it could mean trouble ahead.
But Brandt is cautious about burying the Patriots era of division dominance just yet.
"There's a lot of blood in the water," he said. "But there's been blood before. And until they are dead and buried, I will never count out the Patriots and everybody there in Buffalo knows what I'm talking about."