The Buffalo Bills dropped a heartbreaker in the heat last week, losing 21-19 to the Miami Dolphins. Now they travel to Baltimore amidst more weather concerns to take on Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens
Buffalo Bills (2-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
- Location: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD
- Time: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
- Channel: CBS
After dominating the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans, Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills stumbled on the road in Miami last Sunday. How concerned should Bills’ fans be and how can they get back on track?
Can Buffalo get healthy in time for Sunday?
The biggest story from last week’s game, and one that you’re probably sick of reading about, is just how extensive the Bills’ injury report is. They were down 11 starters at one point against the Dolphins, even losing Christian Benford for multiple weeks to a fractured hand in the middle of the game.
However, the Bills got some good news in the middle of the week when Jordan Poyer, Ed Oliver, and Dane Jackson all returned to limited practice on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The potential returns of Poyer and Jackson are huge given the fact that Benford is out and Micah Hyde is done for the season. The team is confident that Jaquan Johnson can fill in admirably for Hyde, but they really need Poyer back to have that veteran presence in the secondary to, hopefully, prevent instances like the Dolphins’ 3rd-and-22 conversion for 49 yards that set up their game-winning touchdown.
Jackson being back at practice is a shock considering how scary his injury looked, but he said he was cleared of any structural damage and the only issue is the soreness he feels in his neck and back. It seems more likely Hyde plays than Jackson, but I wouldn’t rule Jackson out, and the Bills also signed cornerback reinforcements with former Pro Bowler Xavier Rhodes joining the team (but then he also hurt his hamstring in practice).
The return of Ed Oliver is also big news as the team prepares to take on Lamar Jackson. The Bills have done well at shoring up their run defense this week, and Oliver is their most electric interior defender, so his return is a boost to that entire line.
Considering how dynamic Lamar Jackson has been to start the year, Buffalo will need every healthy body it can muster to slow him down.
Can the Bills continue their success against Lamar Jackson?
However, the Bills do have a solid track record of success against Lamar. In the 2021 playoffs, the Bills held Lamar Jackson to 162 yards passing and one interception and also limited him on the ground to just 34 yards rushing. Jackson missed the fourth quarter of the game with a concussion, but that is still an impressive effort against an elite player.
In 2019, Lamar Jackson was able to throw for three touchdowns against Buffalo, but they did hold him to just 145 yards passing on 5.8 yards per completion and just 40 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Those Ravens teams also featured a few more weapons than this year’s roster now that Marquise Brown is gone and JK Dobbins is still working his way back from last year’s major knee injury.
The Bills obviously have some experience in practice against mobile quarterbacks so maybe that has helped them prepare for Lamar in the past, but if defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier can keep the Ravens’ star from having a huge game, it gives Buffalo a major advantage.
Will the Bills Win With an Aerial Assault
On the offensive side of the ball, Buffalo seems to have a huge advantage in the passing game.
The Bills lead the NFL in passing yards with 987 through three games. That’s almost 100 yards more than the next best team, the Green Bay Packers. Buffalo is 7th in the NFL with seven net yards per attempt, and their nine passing touchdowns are second-best in the NFL (behind just Baltimore).
On the other side, the Ravens are giving up far-and-away the most passing yards in the NFL. They have given up 1,060 yards through the air through three games, which is 167 yards more than the second-worst team, the Miami Dolphins. Josh Allen passed for over 400 yards, so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see him do that again. If he does, it would be hard for Buffalo to lose again.
One thing to watch is the status of Gabe Davis, who didn’t practice on Thursday because of the ankle injury he’s been battling. He was able to get a limited practice in on Friday, so we’ll see how he feels in the pre-game warm-ups.
Can Buffalo finish off drives?
However, one of the things that could lead to the Bills losing a game when they move the ball as well as they did last Sunday is their inability to finish off drives. They are currently tied for 11th in the NFL by converting 63.64% of their red zone trips into touchdowns. Last year they led the league at 66.3% so the discrepancy isn’t huge, but this year’s results are definitely impacted by success in the first two weeks.
Against Miami, Buffalo converted just two of their five red zone trips into touchdowns. One ended in a field goal, another was a missed field goal, and another was a turnover on downs after they had the ball first-and-goal from Miami’s two-yard-line.
In fact, the Bills went 0-3 in red zone conversion in the second half of the Dolphins game. You can’t beat good teams if you can’t finish drives.
A problem could be the Bills’ play calls or usage in the red zone.
While Stefon Diggs leads the team with 31.1% of the team’s red zone targets, the next three players are a bit of a surprise, Devin Singletary is second with 24.4%, Isaiah McKenzie is third with 17.8%, and James Cook is fourth with 10%. I know Gabe Davis missed Week 2, but it would make sense for the Bills to involve him and Dawson Knox more in the red zone.
Does Buffalo have an offensive line problem?
In my key takeaways piece from earlier in the week, I mentioned that the Bills’ offensive line has been a problem to start the year. While some of that has to do with injuries to Mitch Morse, Spencer Brown, and Ryan Bates, the team has been one of the worst run-blocking units in football, even when at full strength.
You can read my full thoughts in the article here, but the Buffalo offensive line needs to be better if Josh Allen wants to attack the Ravens deep and if the Bills want to have any semblance of a running game.