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Top 6 storylines to follow for Bills vs. Ravens | Week 4

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) Buffalo Bills vs Baltimore Ravens at New Era Field, December 7, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) Buffalo Bills vs Baltimore Ravens at New Era Field, December 7, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes

It's bounce back week. The Buffalo Bills are heading to Baltimore to face the 2-1 Ravens. Two top five offenses going at it, we'll see who can put more on the board.

Here are six storylines to know ahead of Sunday's game.

1. Getting healthy

The Bills came into Week 3 with multiple players injured. Unfortunately, they left the game with even more injuries. Several players left the game due to heat exhaustion and will hopefully be rested and ready to go for Sunday's game, but a few suffered injuries that could linger.

Here's where the Bills stand on the injury front after Sunday's loss to the Dolphins.

Ed Oliver (ankle), Jordan Phillips (hamstring), Jordan Poyer (foot), Dane Jackson (neck), Mitch Morse (elbow) did not play against the Dolphins. The good news here is all but Phillips and Jackson were limited in every practice leading up to the Miami game. Poyer missed one day of practice but was limited for the other two practices.

Ryan Bates (head), Christian Benford (hand), Jake Kumerow (ankle) and did not finish Sunday's game due to injury.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott also announced that Tommy Doyle tore his ACL during the game and Benford could miss a "couple of weeks" with a hand injury that needs surgery.

It's important to remember the Bills were heading into Week 3 on a short week due to the Titans game on Monday night. They will have a normal week ahead of Sunday's game against Baltimore. Hopefully an extra day gives the bulk of the group enough time to heal and be good to go for Week 4.

2. Two high-powered offenses led by their QBs

Two of the best offenses in the NFL will go at it on Sunday afternoon. The Bills and the Ravens have put plenty of points on the board to begin the 2022 season and both quarterbacks have been a big reason why. The Ravens are averaging the most points per game (33) in the NFL through three weeks, while the Bills are averaging the third-most (30.33). They've also been racking up yards. Both rank in the top five with the Bills averaging 441.3 total yards per game (2nd in the NFL).

Allen and Jackson share qualities that a lot of NFL quarterbacks don't have like their ability to escape from the pocket and run the ball when needed. The two are top three in the NFL in rushing yards for quarterbacks with Jackson leading the pack (243 rushing yards). The duo has also found the end zone through similar rates as Jackson has 10 passing touchdowns (1st) and Allen has 9 (2nd).

When asked if preparing for the Bills would be a little easier because of the fact that they have quarterbacks with similar qualities, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh explained the Bills have a different style.

"They do run a lot of similar plays; they run different plays, too," Harbaugh said on Monday. "They've got their own style. [They're] a very physical offensive line; [they have] playmaking receivers, especially No. 14 [Stefon Diggs] and No. 88 [Dawson Knox] and No. 6 [Isaiah McKenzie]. They've got some downhill, elusive backs [and] hard runners."

3. Success on third downs and opening drives

The Bills have the best 3rd down offense to start the season, and they just faced their first 3rd & 10 or longer situation in Week 3. Not too shabby. They're converting 61% of their 3rd downs, which is the highest rate in the NFL. The next highest is the Eagles at 48.9%. Buffalo converted 90% of its 3rd down opportunities against the Rams in Week 1 and converted 61% against the Dolphins in Week 3.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs said they've been able to do this because of the talent on the field.

"At the quarterback position we have a lot of talent, a lot of talent, crazy, special talent," Diggs told The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz on Tuesday. "We have some guys on the outside that can win, especially in the middle. Isaiah McKenzie, Jamison Crowder, Gabe Davis, Dawson Knox, we even have a fullback that can get open and Motor Singletary. We got a lot of guys. I think we're up there with talent."

Baltimore's defense has made it tough for teams on third down as it is allowing opponents to only convert 32.4% of the time (8th in the NFL).

The Bills also extended their streak of scoring on opening drives to eight games. Buffalo is the second team to do so in the last 40 years. The Bills converted three third downs on their opening drive of the Titans game that resulted in a Reggie Gilliam touchdown reception.

Baltimore's defense hasn't been the best at limiting teams in the red zone. They're allowing teams to score 72.7% (t-27th) of the time in the red zone.

4. Can the defense stay consistent against a dual threat QB?

The Bills defense has done a great job of limiting their opponents in the first three weeks of the season. They're allowing just 214 yards per game (1st in the NFL), 12.67 points per game (t-4th), a 65.3 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks (1st) and have surrendered just two passing touchdowns (t-1st). They forced Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford to throw three interceptions, limited Titans running back Derrick Henry to just 25 rushing yards and Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill to 33 receiving yards.

Their next challenge is limiting a quarterback who has been successful through the air and on the ground. It's a test they have yet to face this season.

Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier explained Jackson's tough to prepare for because not many can compare to him.

"Lamar is just so dynamic as a runner and now that he's throwing the ball as well as he is, it's that much tougher," Frazier shared. "So we'll have our hands full trying to slow him down."

In 2021, Jackson totaled 18 touchdowns. This season, the QB has already accounted for 12, which leads the NFL. This uptick in production is thanks to his continued improvement in the passing game. Jackson has 10 passing touchdowns (1st in the NFL) and is averaging over 80 more passing yards per game than he did last season (250 per game vs. 169 per game).

"He's really improved his passing," Frazier added. "You can see it with the numbers. He's really worked on it. You can tell over the last couple of years, he has gotten better at throwing the football down the field. His accuracy, and the poise he has in the pocket. He's not looking to escape and run around at times.

"He's looking to get completions, and he's doing a good job of that."

The last time the Bills faced the Ravens was on January 16, 2021 in the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs. Buffalo beat Baltimore 17-3 as Jackson completed 14 of his 24 pass attempts (58.3%) for 162 passing yards and threw one interception — a pick-six. He also came out of the game at the end of the third quarter due to an injury.

We will see if the Bills, healthy or not, are up to the test of stopping this new and improved Jackson. So far, they haven't given up more than one passing touchdown in a game.

5. Familiar faces

Several Bills players and coaches have connections to Baltimore. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is from Maryland and went to high school at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Olney, MD. He also attended the University of Maryland.

Sean McDermott and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh spent 2001 to 2007 together when they worked under Andy Reid in Philadelphia. They spent the 2007 season coaching together as McDermott was the secondary coach and Harbaugh was the defensive backs coach.

Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman will play against some familiar faces as he was the offensive coordinator for the Bills from 2015 to 2016.

Running back Devin Singletary knew of Jackson long before his NFL days. The two faced each other in the South Florida Youth Football League in 2006.

6. The weather blues

The Bills are coming off of a scorcher against the Dolphins where they had to endure temps around 100 degrees on the field in Miami. This played a role in who was available to finish the game as players left due to heat exhaustion.

Unfortunately, it's looking like the Bills could go from one game impacted by weather to the next. This time it won't be sun. Instead, it'll be rain. It's looking like there will be an 80% chance of rain on Sunday during the day with winds up to 20 miles per hour in Baltimore.

"We'll see where the weather is going," McDermott said. "I think that could be another factor as this hurricane maybe moves up the coast. We're keeping an eye on it, and so we'll just see where things go from here."

See the best game photos from Bills vs. Dolphins during Week 3

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