In preparing for Sunday’s matchup against the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Rumblings Matthew Byham and I sat down for a small Q&A for one another’s publications.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check `1out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said the challenging part of slowing down or defending against Bills quarterback Josh Allen is that he does everything well. Do you see any weaknesses to his play right now, or anything that has had a noticeable impact to curtail what has been an impressive start to the 2022 season?
I think if you ask anyone in Bills Mafia this question, you’ll likely receive a similar response something the likes of “Josh Allen tries to do too much—but we love it and wouldn’t change a thing.” But a weakness? I think it’s when Allen tries to rely too much on his talent, and comes out of his mechanics. You could also say his hero-ball mentality. Through the first two weeks of the season, Allen was on a fever pitch, one very similar to his incredible production during the 2021 NFL Playoffs—and especially so against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Against the Miami Dolphins last weekend, there were a few throws Allen made that seemed to show a regression to traits from his first couple seasons in the NFL. Now, it’s important to note that the offensive line was down nearly every one of its starters—especially so on the right side of the line. That right side was specifically where Allen seemed to struggle throwing to the outside. He tried to do too much deep in their own territory and fumbled the ball back to the Dolphins. Hero ball. Then, late in the game on a 4th & GOAL throw to take the lead, Allen couldn’t connect with wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie who was open for the touchdown—the ball simply landed short and bounced off the turf. That play clearly illustrated Allen relying on his talents too much in place of his mechanics.
2. Through three weeks, footballoutsiders has Buffalo with the last-ranked rushing DVOA at -41.1%, nearly eight points lower than the second-worst team. What are the issues surrounding the struggling run game for the Bills?
Quite frankly, I don’t believe the Bills are built to be a traditional running team, and I’m not sure they care to be one. Every other person you talk to in Bills Country says that Josh Allen runs too much, and that they need to find a running back capable of filling the role. The team has invested heavily at running back in the NFL Draft, with Devin Singletary (2019 3rd Round), Zack Moss (2020 3rd Round), and James Cook (2022 2nd Round) all on the roster. Singletary is their most complete back but lacks true elite speed. Moss was supposed to be more in line with a bruising closer, but injuries have held him back and it doesn’t appear as though he’s the type of talent for which they (or at least those outside the organization) brought him in to play. James Cook has been underwhelming, to say the least.
But taking all that into consideration, I think it’s more of an issue with the offensive line. That’s especially true given the amount of depth they’ve had to field already this season. Just last Sunday, they ran through every available o-lineman. One more injury and it’s possible fullback Reggie Gilliam was seeing snaps on the line. Buffalo built the line to protect Josh Allen. But they’ve spent a lot of resources on drafting RBs and it’s a bothersome issue with many who follow the team.
3. If you’re suddenly the offensive coordinator for the Ravens, what are you scheming up to go against the Bills defense? Where might they find success and where, also, should they avoid?
If Baltimore’s offense can influence pressure plays that force the Bills into rushing more than their front four, it could stress the defense. That’s certainly the case if they’re able to contain the blitz and keep Lamar off the turf. I’d try to hit them over the top, testing the health of the defensive backfield.
A running theme right now with Buffalo, those injuries will likely come into play. Buffalo still doesn’t have All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White back (PUP to start the season due to his ACL injury last Thanksgiving), and while practicing, Dane Jackson—the team’s other veteran starter—suffered a scary head/neck injury against the Titans. That left the team fielding a pair of rookies at CB in Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford. Now Benford has a broken hand (suffered against the Dolphins) and won’t play. Then there’s the pair of incredible All-Pro safeties the Bills feature. Micah Hyde suffered a season-ending neck injury against Tennessee and Jordan Poyer a foot injury against the Dolphins. Poyer is expected to play, but how healthy is something I’d want to test as the Ravens’ OC.
4. What can you tell us about the 2022 rookie class for the Bills? Anybody going to receive notable snaps in this game or be relied on?
The Bills’ 2022 rookie class on the whole hasn’t taken a ton of snaps, which is expected with a championship-focused team. The two cornerback they drafted have received significant snaps, and their fifth-round wide receiver, Khalil Shakir has shown a ton of early promise. But Shakir may continue to yield playing time and active status to players who help offset injuries elsewhere. Someone who’s going to be relied on Sunday? That’s Buffalo’s first-round pick, cornerback Kaiir Elam. While he surrendered snaps to Benford the first couple games despite a much higher draft position (Benford was a sixth-round pick), he has been solid to say the least. Last weekend he had the unenviable task of shadowing wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Hill finished with two catches for 33 yards. Elam was drafted to combat players with incredible speed—he ran a 4.39 40 at the NFL Combine. He played lights out against Hill.
5. The Bills are favored in this game by -3.5 according to DraftKings. Do you agree with this line? Disagree? Why?
The short answer? Perhaps surprisingly, I tend to disagree with the current line. Coming into the season, the hype around the Buffalo Bills was fever pitch. I think most betting lines ran with the narrative that the Bills were an unstoppable force. But Baltimore is an uber-talented team and a real threat to win it all, in my opinion. Injuries are the ultimate equalizer in what’s perhaps the world’s ultimate team sport. As a fan of the Bills, I always go in expecting a win, but facing the Ravens on their “home perch” has me siding with a more sensible margin of victory.
With what we know about Buffalo’s injury front, I’m less inclined to agree with the Bills being favored this week. They’re going to be staring back at a near mirror-image of themselves in Baltimore—a deadly opponent who can score at will and does so in spades week in and out. The Bills’ defensive line and secondary are M.A.S.H. units now, and even the depth that was brought in to account for injuries to starters has suffered mass amounts of its own ailments. So no, I’d personally side more with a line of Ravens at -3.5 at home against a banged-up Bills squad—and with Buffalo beating that spread in a winning effort.