The Game Matchups Preview series is dedicated to breaking down how the Buffalo Bills match up with their opponent in each game of the 2022 NFL Season. This series will look at five key matchups; Bills Pass Offense vs. Opponent Pass Defense, Bills Rush Offense vs. Opponent Rush Defense, Bills Pass Defense vs. Opponent Pass Offense, Bills Rush Defense vs. Opponent Rush Offense, and Bills Special Teams vs. Opponent Special Teams. This entire analysis will conclude with three sections; “Why Buffalo Will Lose”, “Why Buffalo Will Win”, and a score prediction for the game.
Below I present 2022’s fourth iteration of this analysis for the Bills’ Week 4 clash against the Baltimore Ravens. Included is a scale ranking the advantage in each matchup from 👏 (Minimal Advantage) to 👏👏👏👏👏 (Massive Advantage).
Bills Pass Offense vs. Ravens Pass Defense
What if I told you that, in the worst of Josh Allen’s last five games, he threw for 400 yards? This is the reality we live in after Allen’s impressive yet underwhelming, by his standards, performance against the Dolphins. In isolation, his 429 yards, two touchdowns, and one turnover are spectacular, but considering it took 75 touches and resulted in just 17 points, it’s much less so. Still, Josh Allen is playing incredible football in 2022, and the fact that we can nitpick a 400+ yard performance should tell you all you need to know about his current level of play. In Week 4 look for Allen to revert back to his even more dominant self in a game against the only other quarterback in the NFL playing near his level.
This week, the Bills’ air attack will contend with a secondary which is getting healthier by the week. Their top two CB duo of Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey may be the best in the NFL. Among the most talented in man coverage and excelling in zone coverage, this week they will be tasked with clamping down Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. Joining them in the secondary is possibly the best safety trio in the NFL in Chuck Clark, Marcus Williams, and rookie Kyle Hamilton. Williams is the most dominant of that trio and through three weeks leads the NFL with three Interceptions. For Baltimore, the talent jumps off the page but against the Bills, they will undergo arguably their largest test in containing what may be the best air attack in the NFL.
Where the Ravens need to improve against the pass is in pressuring quarterbacks. Through three weeks they are producing a pressure rate of just 19.0% while blitzing the 10th most in the NFL (28.1%). In large part due to aging talent up front with players like Calais Campbell and Justin Houston, the Ravens are beginning to lean more on young contributors like Justin Madubuike and Odafe Oweh. All of those rushers may see their best opportunity of 2022 to boost those pass rush numbers against a banged-up Bills offensive line. Dion Dawkins (LT), Rodger Saffold (LG), and Spencer Brown (RT) are all but locked in but Mitch Morse (C) and Rick Bates (RG) health are in question. Replacement players Greg Van Roten (C) and Bobby Hart (RG) leave a lot to be desired and provide potential for another week where Josh Allen is under constant duress.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Bills Rush Offense vs. Ravens Rush Defense
“We don’t need to run the ball more, we to run the ball better” has been the Bills’ mantra for the past few seasons. Thus far in 2022, Buffalo hasn’t lived up to that ideal. The Bills trio of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and James Cook are averaging 4.4 Y/A this season, a number massively increased by three outlying runs of 16, 43, and 33 yards, respectively. Where the issue resides is up for debate but the result is the Bills’ quarterback outputting a career-high 83.1% of the offense. It remains to be seen if that number is sustainable but sooner or later the Bills will need to find some sort of answer to traditionally moving the ball on the ground.
Rushing against the Ravens doesn’t project to be much easier for the Bills than weeks past. Their front seven, while not elite, looks more than capable of slowing down the Bills’ subpar rushing attack. Calais Campbell has been a force in the NFL going on 15 seasons and is still challenging offensive linemen. The loss of NT Michael Pierce looms large but the emergence of rookie Travis Jones seems a foregone conclusion in Baltimore. Behind them though is an area of vulnerability in two linebackers with opposing issues. The 33-year-old Josh Bynes may still have the instincts of an above-average NFL LB but is slowing down at this point in his career. The exact opposite can be said for Patrick Queen who is one of the most athletic LBs in the league but hasn’t translated well to the NFL. Yet, there is little chance either of these players is exposed against possibly the worst rushing attack in the league which if anything should allow a player like Queen to focus on the Bills’ best runner.
Josh Allen is clearly the Bills’ best option on the ground and after a loss, he tends to be more apt to take off. Since 2020, Allen averages 7.3 rushes after a loss compared to 6.6 after a win. With weather set to play a role in Sunday’s contest, it should surprise no one if that number is pushed even higher. In reality, Allen’s power running style may play better in these conditions than Lamar Jackson’s agile attack. Look for Allen to attack outside the pocket all day either through the air or on the ground. This will put an extra level of pressure on the Ravens’ second level and has the potential to put players like Patrick Queen and Kyle Hamilton in vulnerable positions. The Bills may not have a proficient traditional rushing attack but Allen’s ability to extend plays and move the sticks with his legs is set to play a role in this game.
EDGE: Bills 👏
Bills Pass Defense vs. Ravens Pass Offense
Coming into the 2022 season the Bills were prepared to trot out a secondary of Micah Hyde (S), Jordan Poyer (S), Tre White (CB), Dane Jackson (CB), and Taron Johnson (CB). At one point in Week 3, the Bills’ secondary was Jaquan Johnson (S), Damar Hamlin (S), Kaiir Elam (CB), Ja’Marcus Ingram (CB), and Taron Johnson (CB). Injuries have rattled a dominant group that surprisingly still held its own against the Miami Dolphins. Whether or not the situation improves in Week 4 remains to be seen with Micah Hyde (S) out for the season, Tre White (CB) still on the PUP list, and Christian Benford (CB) set to miss time with a fractured hand. Where the Bills could see gains is the potential return of Dane Jackson (CB) and Jordan Poyer (S) who will be pivotal for Buffalo to slow down arguably the best quarterback this season.
There is no NFL quarterback playing better football right now than Lamar Jackson. Through three weeks he has posted a league-high 79.70 QuBeR while scoring a touchdown on 10% of his touches. He is currently throwing an elite deep ball which has completely opened up an already dynamic offense resulting in the Ravens’ top two WRs, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, combining for 21.7 yards per reception. Combine those WRs’ top-end speed with Mark Andrews underneath and the Ravens have playmakers at every level. Mark Andrews (TE) is currently averaging 10.3 targets per game while leading all tight ends in receptions (22), yards (245), and touchdowns (three). These three alone will test the structural integrity of the Bills’ zone defense with players like Isaiah Likely (TE) and James Proche (WR) making life even more difficult for Buffalo’s second level.
To make life easier on an inexperienced secondary, the Bills will rely on their dominant defensive line. That group has produced a 27.3% pressure rate while Buffalo has blitzed a league-low 6.1% of the time. This will stress the Ravens’ above-average OL of Morgan Moses (RT), Kevin Zeitler (RG), Tyler Linderbaum (C), and Ben Powers (LG). A big question mark however remains at LT where the return of Ronnie Stanley (All-Pro 2019) would push this OL into elite status, but if he can’t go Lamar Jackson’s blindside would be protected by rookie Daniel Faalele. This would provide a weak spot for one, or both, of Von Miller and Greg Rousseau to exploit while Buffalo’s internal pass rush inclusive of Ed Oliver (if healthy) and Tim Settle looks to collapse the pocket. Possibly the most important matchup on Sunday, Bills DL versus Ravens OL may just determine the outcome of this game.
EDGE: Ravens 👏👏
Bills Rush Defense vs. Ravens Rush Offense
The Bills have been surprisingly good at stuffing the run in 2022. The likes of Darrell Henderson, Derrick Henry, Chase Edmonds, and Raheem Mostert have combined for a Y/A of just 2.8, the second lowest Y/A in the NFL. DaQuan Jones is proving to be a force in the middle of the line, soaking up blockers and allowing both of the Bills LBs, Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano, to play arguably the best football of their careers. Edmunds and Milano have combined for 31 Tackles missing just one this season, a missed tackle rate of just 3.1%. This will play an important role on Sunday as the Bills attempt to maintain gap integrity up front to allow their LBs to make plays on the Ravens RBs as well as their best runner.
And just like the Bills, the Ravens’ best runner is their quarterback, Lamar Jackson. His 9.3 Y/A ranks #1 in the NFL while his 234 rushing yards rank fifth. Nearly all of Jackson’s runs occur when breaking out of the pocket to the right side where his speed and agility make him deadly to opposing defenders. The result is all 11 defenders being responsible for slowing down Jackson on the ground. This is a major benefit of the Bills’ zone-heavy scheme which allows them to maintain eyes on the quarterback at all times. Reducing the running lanes to the sidelines through the play of DBs is just half the battle though as the Bills’ front seven will also need to maintain a compact pocket to avoid Lamar breaking free over the middle of the field. Chunk yardage and first downs through Lamar’s legs is a key to victory for the Ravens and therefore a primary focus for the Bills’ defense.
The run game of the Ravens will also continue to see a boost as the season moves forward and their RBs get healthier. JK Dobbins made his season debut in Week 3 and on a pitch count had seven rushes for 23 yards. Expect that number to increase this week while the workload is still split between him and Justice Hill. Hill is the more twitch back of the two while Dobbins is the more complete but each excel in Greg Roman’s run scheme. The Ravens use two TE and/or 2/3 RB sets more than just about any team in the NFL. This means extra blockers such as Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely, and Patrick Ricard are always in the box attacking the second level and providing lanes for RBs as well as Lamar Jackson to make moves. The Bills will need to counter this with stacked boxes while relying on their DEs to both rush Jackson while maintaining contain.
EDGE: Ravens 👏
Bills Special Teams vs. Ravens Special Teams
Going into Week 3, Tyler Bass hadn’t missed a field goal since December 6, 2021. That streak was broken early in the fourth quarter against Miami when Emmanuel Ogbah blocked a 38-yard attempt. Other than that though, Bass has been automatic and the expectation should be positive anytime he takes the field for the Bills. At punter, Sam Martin continues to have an incredibly low workload with just four punts on the season. Of Martin’s punts, two have been fumbled and two have pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line. As for return, Jamison Crowder has the sole KR for the Bills and three PRs, one of which he muffed, and recovered, against the Dolphins.
Kicking for the Ravens is arguably the best kicker in NFL history, Justin Tucker, who has made 15 out of 16 kicks including a 51 and 56-yard field goal. Punting is rookie Jordan Stout who has played decently through his first three games. He is grossing 45.9 Y/P, netting 39.5 Y/P, and sticking 36.4% of punts inside the 20. Where the Ravens push their special teams over the top is through their All-Pro (2021) return man, Devin Duvernay. In 35 career PRs Duvernay has a Y/PR of 13.8 and in 51 career KRs has a Y/KR of 27.1 with two touchdowns. For context, the best career Y/PR (min 75 attempts) is 12.8 while Duvernay’s 27.1 Y/KR would rank 11th All-Time.
EDGE: Ravens 👏👏👏
Why Buffalo Will Lose
Lamar Jackson is playing at an otherworldly level right now and when that caliber of play meets the level of inexperience the Bills have in the secondary, then there are bound to be issues. Through three games Lamar has proved he can stretch the field and also run better than any quarterback in NFL history. Unless the weather wrecks havoc on Sunday, there is no reason to question Lamar’s ability to dish the ball to the likes of Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, and Mark Andrews for four or more scores.
On defense, the returns for Baltimore have not been great thus far in 2022, which seems odd. There is talent all over the field for the Ravens, especially in their secondary where they have ball hawks galore. The Ravens’ defense is heavily reliant on forcing turnovers but with Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Marcus Williams there is a better chance than not that they snag a few. Snag a few against the Bills on Sunday and not much else will matter in what could be a runaway win for the Ravens.
Why Buffalo Will Win
An angry Josh Allen is a dangerous Josh Allen, and if the Miami Dolphins did anything, it’s make Josh Allen angry. Couple that with Gabe Davis and Dawson Knox slowly getting healthier and we could be in line to witness an offensive performance more similar to the one Buffalo had against the Titans than they had against the Dolphins. There are concerns about the Bills’ OL health but with Allen’s movability and the Ravens’ lack of a consistent pass rush, points should be had for Buffalo.
On defense, assuming that one or both of Jordan Poyer and Ed Oliver return, Buffalo should continue to be a potent force. Lamar Jackson has shredded the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots but none of their defenses compare to a somewhat healthy Bills defense. The Bills should find pressure by rushing four through a DL that is playing like a top unit in the NFL against an OL that isn’t fully experienced playing with each other as of yet. Force Lamar into uncomfortable positions and while there is about a 0% chance the Bills stop him, there is a possibility they contain him.
Prediction: Bills 28 – Ravens 27
Coming into writing this my plan was to pick the Ravens. They are one of the premier teams in the NFL and getting healthier each and every week. Add to that the fact that Lamar Jackson is playing his best football, and how could you pick against them? The only way someone could do that is if the team they pick has a quarterback that can play at an equally high level for a team that, while not healthy, is set to get some playmakers back. This leads to the prediction above with one major caveat attached. If both Mitch Morse AND Jordan Poyer play the Bills will leave Sunday victorious, if one or both don’t play then flip this prediction. This game is a preview of a matchup fans should be excited for at some point in January.