When the Bills throw: Quarterback Josh Allen continues to get better. After a breakout game against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Allen has now thrown for 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his past eight games, compiling a quarterback rating of 98.7. Amazingly, Allen needs just 134 passing yards to pass Rob Johnson for 11th on the Bills’ all-time passing list. He also needs 1,075 yards over the final four games of the regular season to move into the top 10, passing Trent Edwards. Receiver Cole Beasley has been Allen’s favorite target the past two weeks, with 12 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Adding to that total against the Ravens will be a challenge. Baltimore cornerback Marcus Peters is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions, and has returned three of those picks for touchdowns. EDGE: Even.
When the Bills run: Rookie Devin Singletary has overtaken veteran Frank Gore for the team lead in rushing yards, 553-552. Singletary is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, second in the NFL among running backs behind San Francisco’s Raheem Mostert (5.9). Singletary has shown in recent weeks he can be a between-the-tackles runner. The Ravens have enjoyed several big leads, so they don’t face many rushing attempts, which explains why their average rushing yards per game, 94.9, ranks sixth in the league. On a per-carry basis, Baltimore isn’t as good, allowing 4.54 yards per carry, which ranks 22nd. Baltimore’s biggest weakness against the run also might play into the Bills’ strength. Baltimore is allowing 5.8 yards per carry on runs outside the tackles. Singletary has the speed to get to the edge and the shiftiness to make plays in space. EDGE: Bills.
When the Ravens throw: Quarterback Lamar Jackson is the favorite for NFL MVP, for good reason. Jackson is already the only quarterback in NFL history to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 950 yards in a single season – numbers he’ll improve upon over the last four weeks provided he stays healthy. He has accounted for an NFL-leading 32 touchdowns this season and has been simply magnificent the last five games, throwing for 14 touchdowns and no interceptions with a completion percentage of 72.0. Jackson became just the second quarterback in NFL history to have two games in a single season with a perfect passer rating (158.3), joining Ben Roethlisberger. Tight end Mark Andrews has been Jackson’s favorite target. Andrews has 53 catches for 693 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Rookie receiver Hollywood Brown is next with 36 catches for 520 yards and six touchdowns. The Bills’ pass rush has come alive the past three weeks with 15 sacks. That’s tied for the most in the NFL. Buffalo is allowing an average of 5.1 yards per pass attempt, which is third best in the NFL. EDGE: Bills.
When the Ravens run: Jackson doesn’t have to throw much. That’s because of how great the Ravens are on the ground. That includes the quarterback, who leads the team with 977 yards on 140 carries, an NFL-best 7.0 yards per carry. Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman is sure to get head-coaching consideration after the job he’s done this season. Because they are so good at running the ball, the Ravens set up manageable third-down conversions. They are converting those at a clip of 48.9%, which is second best in the league. Additionally, Baltimore leads the NFL with 15 fourth-down conversions, so Roman isn’t afraid of keeping his offense on the field. When Jackson does hand off, Mark Ingram is Baltimore’s top rushing threat. The former Saints draft pick has 837 yards and nine touchdowns on 166 carries. EDGE: Ravens.
Special teams: Baltimore has a decided edge in the kicking game. The Ravens’ Justin Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL. He drilled the game-winning, 49-yard field goal in the wind and rain last week against San Francisco – the 15th career game-winner for a kicker making a case to be considered among the best of all time. Earlier this season, Tucker hit a 46-yard, overtime game-winner to beat the Steelers in Week 5 and has successfully converted 22 of 23 field goals this season. Baltimore also ranks in the top eight in both punt-return average and punt coverage. EDGE: Ravens.
Coaching: Sean McDermott and the Ravens’ John Harbaugh go way back, having worked together under Andy Reid for several years with the Eagles. Harbaugh has led his team to the playoffs in seven of his 11 full seasons – soon to become eight in 12. Baltimore’s 10 playoff wins under Harbaugh since 2008 rank second in the league to New England’s 16. Baltimore’s eight-game winning streak is the longest in the NFL. Two of those wins have come over the woeful Bengals, but the six others have come against teams with a combined record of 52-20. In other words, there’s a good reason the Ravens are considered by many to be the best team in the NFL. “It doesn’t surprise me knowing coach Harbaugh and just being around him,” McDermott said of Baltimore’s success. The Bills’ coach is building his own resume, and has a chance to make the playoffs in two of his first three years in Buffalo. EDGE: Ravens.
Prediction: Bills 24, Ravens 21