The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Tennessee Titans 20-13 last Sunday and stomped on their logo to move forward to the divisional round. They will face the red-hot Buffalo Bills, who have won seven-straight games. Here are five players to watch:
Jackson was unstoppable running the football against the Titans; he had 16 carries for 136 yards and a touchdown. That included a 48-yard rushing touchdown, which was the second-longest rushing touchdown by a quarterback in the playoffs in NFL history.
Jackson should continue to run the football frequently against the weak Bills’ run defense. This season, the Bills allowed 4.6 yards per carry (seventh-most in the NFL) and 21 total rushing touchdowns (sixth-most in the NFL). They have not fared any better in the playoffs, as the Colts gained 163 rushing yards on 30 carries last Saturday.
Ricard was the X-factor on offense in last Sunday’s game. Greg Roman clearly prioritized utilizing Ricard after halftime. He was dominant in their first drive of the third quarter; he had three receptions for 26 yards and was the lead-blocker on J.K. Dobbins’ touchdown run. For the game, Ricard was on the field for 75% of the team’s offensive snaps, which was a season-high mark for him.
Ricard clearly energized the Ravens' offense. Roman should rely on him again this week.
The Ravens surprisingly allowed five sacks against the Titans, who had the third-fewest sacks in the NFL this season. In fact, five sacks were a new season-high for the Titans. That is concerning. Tyre Phillips and D.J. Fluker have split time at right tackle. Last Sunday, Phillips led the way with 39 offensive snaps, while Fluker played 26. Phillips struggled at times. On this play, Brooks Reed simply overpowered Phillips for the sack.
For perspective, entering this game Reed had only one sack this season and a total of three sacks over the last three years.
Phillips will need to improve as a pass protector against the Bills. This season, the Bills had 38 total sacks, while the Titans had only 19. Phillips should be matched up often with veteran defensive end Jerry Hughes, who has 56 career sacks.
Humphrey versus Stefon Diggs will be the biggest matchup of the game. The Bills have the league’s second-highest scoring offense, and that is primarily due to their passing attack, which is led by Diggs. Diggs had a monster regular season. He led the NFL in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535). He carried that momentum into their victory against the Colts last Saturday. He finished with six receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown. If Humphrey can prevent Diggs from having a big game, the Ravens have a good chance to walk away with a victory. Diggs was held to less than 100 receiving yards in two out of the Bills’ three losses this season.
Josh Allen is an underrated rusher. In fact, he led the Bills in rushing yards (54) in their playoff win last week. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale seems to be well aware of this.
Martindale told his defensive players that they need to be ready to tackle Josh Allen like they were with Derrick Henry. Said bringing Allen to the ground is just as challenging.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) January 13, 2021
Although they are the league’s second-highest scoring offense, the Bills do not have an efficient rushing offense. You could actually argue that Allen is their biggest threat running the football. For the season, the Bills are averaging 4.2 yards per carry, which is tied for 19th in the NFL. Against the Colts, they nearly abandoned the run game altogether, as Devin Singletary and Zack Moss combined for only ten carries.
It will be up to Patrick Queen and the Ravens’ defense to contain Allen. If they can keep him in the pocket, the Bills' offense will remain dangerous, but it will be very one-dimensional.
The Ravens did an excellent job of limiting another mobile quarterback earlier this season, Cam Newton. Newton gained only 21 yards on 11 carries in their Week 10 meeting. Along with the rest of the Ravens’ defense, Queen did a good job of containing Derrick Henry last week. He will need to limit Josh Allen on Saturday.