How to exploit the Ravens: Stack the box and force the NFL’s worst passing offense to win the game.
It’s hard to account for Jackson’s superhuman powers — which we’ve all seen him use to win games — but bringing a safety down in the box to stop the run and forcing the Ravens to throw the ball is the formula to beating them.
There’s a reason the Ravens have been one-and-done in the postseason the last two seasons, and it’s not all on Jackson. Rather, it’s the collective unit’s inability to routinely move the ball effectively through the air (this includes Greg Roman’s play-calling). If the Ravens are forced to become one-dimensional, it will be extremely tough for Jackson to accurately throw the ball, and we have to assume it will be difficult for his pass-catchers to consistently win their matchups against the remaining teams, simply because we haven’t seen them do it.
Allen has the ability to make every dynamic play in the book, but sometimes his tendency to do too much bites him in the butt. Let’s look at one play from Buffalo’s wild-card win over Indy. The Bills had the ball at their own 43-yard line and a three-point lead with just under four minutes to play — and with Allen fighting off a sack for a major loss, the ball ended up lying on the ground, deep in Bills territory. Fortunately, Daryl Williams recovered it, but this type of thing happens often when relying on Allen to make plays outside the X’s and O’s. Allen’s dynamic playmaking ability has made the run game into an afterthought, especially now that they won’t have rookie running back Zack Moss (ankle) for the rest of the postseason.
‘They’re the top defense that we’ve played all year’ | Bills coaches discuss the big challenge in facing Baltimore - Jordan LaBarber
“It’s one of the best defenses if not the best defense in the National Football League both player-wise and scheme-wise,” Daboll said Monday.
“… It’s a Baltimore Ravens defense, you know? They’re really good. It’s a challenging team to prepare for in a lot of regards and we’re gonna have our work cut out for us.”
A few statistics stick out regarding the Ravens defense. They lead the NFL in forced fumbles (25), fumbles recovered (15), and fumbles returned for touchdowns (three). They blitzed on 44.1 percent of dropbacks, according to Pro-Football Reference, which led the NFL. They ranked 14th with 39 sacks but tied for fourth with 59 QB knockdowns.
The Ravens ranked sixth with 3,536 passing yards allowed during the regular season, yet they also managed to hold All-Pro running back Derrick Henry to just 40 rushing yards in their wild-card victory over the Titans.
“They’re the top defense that we’ve played all year,” Daboll said. “That’s what the playoffs are. Those are the moments that you live for. Highly competitive individuals playing in tough games that are meaningful games, and it will be a challenge.”
2020 big plays: 13 receptions of 20+ yards, 8 receiving TDs, 4 forced missed tackles
Week 12: 4 receptions-85 yards-1 TD
Week 13: 5-39-1
Week 14: 2-50-1
Week 15: 6-98-0
Week 16: 4-25-1
Week 17: 5-41-2
Wild Card: 7-109-0
Good things usually happen when this offense gets the ball to their No. 1 WR, but this hasn’t always been any easy task. One of just 14 receivers with a catchable deep-ball rate under 40% among 48 qualified targets, Brown’s solid 2020 campaign could’ve been far bigger with a little luck.
Hollywood checks in with our ninth-highest playmaker rate among 153 players with at least 50 touches this season. I maintain the Ravens have done Lamar Jackson a disservice by not attempting to surround him with additional high-end receivers, but clearly Brown is someone capable of demanding plenty of attention from opposing secondaries in his own right.
Honorable mention: Mark Andrews
Andrews is averaging 2.31 yards per route run over the past two seasons including playoffs. That’s easily the best mark on the Ravens and third among 47 tight ends with at least 50 targets since 2019.
2021 NFL divisional playoff picks, schedule: Tom Brady misses out on NFC title game, Bills edge Ravens - John Breech
No. 5 Baltimore (12-5) at No. 2 Buffalo (14-3)
Latest Odds: Buffalo Bills -1.5
It’s hard to describe how well Allen played this year, so I’m just going to say this, the Bills quarterback had better numbers than Lamar did last year when he was named MVP.
The winning team in this game is going to be the one that can slow down the opposing quarterback and right now, I’m giving that advantage to the Bills. The Ravens went 11-5 this season and four of their five losses came to a team that had a head coach with a defensive background (Mike Tomlin x 2, Bill Belichick, Mike Vrabel) and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. If you have a head coach who used to be a defensive coordinator and you’re going against someone as electrifying as Lamar Jackson, it becomes a personal challenge to slow him down. A defensive-minded coach is likely also going to be much more involved with the game-plan on defense than an offensive-minded coach.
Also, the Bills are 9-1 in their past 10 home playoff games. I’m taking Buffalo.
The pick: Bills 34-31 over Ravens
NFL playoff picks, predictions for divisional games: Ravens run past Bills; Packers stump Rams; Bucs upset Saints - Bill Bender
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (-3)
The Bills have won seven in a row, and the Ravens have won six straight games. Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have found their grooves, and both will be challenged by tough defenses. The difference for Baltimore, however, has been a running game ignited by J.K. Dobbins, who has scored a TD in seven straight games. The Ravens can limit Buffalo’s possessions with that ground game, and the pass defense limits the Bills’ opportunities in the red zone. Marlon Humphrey seals the victory with a late interception.
Pick: Ravens 28, Bills 24