Ravens vs. Bills: What’s on the line for these upstart teams

Yes, Kansas City at New England is a pivotal game as it relates to the AFC playoff picture.

And yes, the 49ers game against the Saints in New Orleans pits two 10-2 teams in what might be an NFC Championship game preview.

But our Game of the Week features the 10-2 Ravens, who are in the driver’s seat for the top playoff seed in the AFC, at 9-3 Buffalo on Sunday.

The Bills, whose last playoff win came in 1995, haven’t had a game, or season, like this in years, decades even.

The last time the Bills played a home game this late in the season when both teams had winning percentages above .733 was on Dec. 22, 1991, when they were 13-2 and played the 11-4 Lions.

The Bills, who still fancy a chance to overtake the Patriots for the AFC East title (they trail by a game), are riding a three-game winning streak. The Ravens have won their past eight games.

Both teams are led by their respective star quarterbacks — the Ravens by Lamar Jackson, the league’s MVP favorite, and the Bills by Josh Allen.

Allen has completed 225 of 366 passes for 2,591 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and he has rushed 93 times for 430 yards and eight TDs.

Jackson has completed 214 of 322 passes for 2,532 yards and 25 TDs and just five INTs, and he’s rushed 140 times for 977 yards and seven TDs. He’s the most elusive player in the league, with his run-pass option prowess and scrambling ability.

“He’s a little bit of a Houdini back there with the football and really so deceptive, whether or not he’s handing it off or he’s keeping it or potentially passing it,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier told reporters during the week.

Because of Jackson’s running ability, the Ravens are ranked first in the league in rushing offense with an average of 207.8 yards per game on the ground. No team, since the NFL went to a 16-game regular season, has averaged 200 or more yards per game for an entire season. The Ravens average 5.6 yards per rushing attempt. The Bills’ defense is allowing an average of 104.3 rushing yards per game.

The Bills' Josh Allen
The Bills’ Josh AllenGetty Images

The Ravens’ offense versus the Bills’ defense is a delicious matchup. Same for Baltimore’s defense against the Buffalo offense. The Ravens have allowed an NFL-low 11 touchdowns during their eight-game winning streak, producing 15 takeaways and scoring five defensive TDs over that span.

The Bills allow just 15.7 points per game, and have allowed an average of just 13 points per game in the past five. The Buffalo defense has recorded 15 sacks in the past three games — the most of any NFL team in that span and have 37 sacks on the season, already surpassing last year’s total of 36.

So, whether that Buffalo defense can contain, or at least slow down, Jackson and the Ravens will be a fascinating subplot.

The Ravens can clinch a playoff berth with a victory and can clinch the AFC North if they win and the Steelers lose to the Cardinals.

The most impressive thing about the Ravens’ winning streak is the fact they’ve defeated six teams — the Texans Rams, Patriots, Steelers, Seahawks and 49ers — with a winning record, and those teams are a combined 52-20.

The Bills can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Ravens coupled with the Broncos beating the Texans, the Buccaneers defeating or tying the Colts and the Titans defeating or tying the Raiders.

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