Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen were the most scrutinized of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, but both are leading their teams to prosperity as the rest of the class struggles a year later.
Jackson’s MVP-sized leap has positioned the Ravens as the top team in the AFC entering Week 14 while Allen’s improvement has Buffalo in position for its first double-digit-win season in 20 years and only its second trip to the playoffs since 1999. Baltimore is trying to hold off New England for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs while the Bills are just a game behind the Patriots in the AFC East, creating no shortage of ramifications for Sunday’s encounter at New Era Field.
It’s time to go on the record as these AFC teams meet for the ninth time in the all-time series with the Ravens holding a 5-3 advantage. However, the Bills are 2-0 against the Ravens in Buffalo.
Below are five predictions for Sunday:
1. Jackson will break the single-season rushing record for a quarterback with a highlight touchdown. Just 62 yards separate Jackson from Michael Vick’s mark of 1,039 rushing yards in 2006, making it a simple matter of when the Ravens quarterback breaks the record. He has rushed for at least 65 yards in eight of the last nine games and leads the NFL with nine run plays of at least 20 yards, so why not break the NFL record in style against a defense ranking 21st in the NFL in yards per carry allowed?
2. The Ravens defense will give up 140 rushing yards for the second straight week. Jackson isn’t the only flashy runner in this one as Bills running back Devin Singletary ranks third in the NFL at 5.6 yards per carry and trails only Jackson for the highest percentage of carries of 10 or more yards. Baltimore’s sensational offense has masked a run defense ranking 22nd in yards per carry allowed and 25th in efficiency. Both Singletary and Allen can be problematic on the edges if Buffalo stays in the game.
3. A punt block will help set up a Baltimore score. Marlon Humphrey blocked the first field goal of the season for the Ravens and the punt return team also came close to a block last week while the Bills rank 28th in special-teams efficiency and have been particularly vulnerable in the punt game this season. There’s no threat of bitter temperatures or major precipitation for Sunday’s game, but winds 15 to 20 miles per hour could be a factor in the kicking game, an area where Baltimore has a sharp advantage.
4. Mark Ingram will eclipse 100 rushing yards for the fifth time this season. The defenses that have done the most respectable job of slowing the Ravens — no one has come close to stopping them, of course — have taken away the run between the tackles and made Jackson more of a one-man show. With the Bills sporting the NFL’s third-ranked pass defense and wind being a factor, the Ravens will want to wear down a weak run defense with Ingram and Gus Edwards in a grind-it-out affair.
5. Baltimore will win its ninth straight game in a 26-14 final. Buffalo definitely earned some respect for its convincing road win over Dallas on Thanksgiving, but the Bills have played the easiest schedule in the NFL to this point and own the lowest strength of victory in the AFC. The Ravens not only beat the NFC’s former top seed in San Francisco last week, but they did it in a way that exposed a few flaws for the coaching staff to capture players’ attention in case anyone was growing a little too cocky after five straight double-digit wins. Allen has made real strides as a passer since early in the season and the Bills are good enough to pull off an upset in what should be a raucous atmosphere, but that would require the Ravens to provide some help with the kind of mistakes we’ve rarely seen over the last two months. Sunday won’t be a blowout, but it won’t feel like the Ravens are in real danger of losing either.