This weekend sees the NFL Divisional Round and perhaps the most intriguing element of Saturday’s games is whether the in-form Baltimore Ravens can halt the Buffalo Bills stampede towards the AFC Conference Championship game.
The Bills (14-3) have won ten of their last eleven, all of their last seven games. They held off the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 to win their first playoff game since 1995 last weekend.
As per usual, it was quarterback Josh Allen (pictured), in tandem with wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Cole Beasley that were key elements in the Buffalo victory. That said, a resilient performance on defense also helped pave the way for the landmark win.
Ravens Hope For No Snow Buffalo!
Facing off against them at the weekend are he in-form Baltimore Ravens. Lamar Jackson was the offensive catalyst for the team in their 20-13 victory over the Titans in Tennessee.
The MVP of last season rushed for 136 yards and passed for 179 more, scoring a rushing and passing touchdown to lead the Ravens back from a 10-0 first quarter deficit.
With Marquise Brown contributing 109 yards receiving and a superb showing on defense to nullify the Titans explosive offense, holding Derrick Henry to just 40 rushing yards, the Ravens clinched the win late on with Marcus Peters’ late interception from Ryan Tannehill.
Weather conditions could play a key role with Jackson admitting he has never played in snow and he admitted that he hopes the weather stays clear for the game. That is not always a given in Buffalo in January.
What do the sportsbooks think?
A quick look at the odds for this game with DraftKings Sportsbook reveals that they have the Ravens as the +2.5 underdogs, while the Bills are the slight favourites for the game.
However, the handicap suggests that bookmakers feel this is the toughest of all four Divisional Round games to call.
It’s not hard to disagree with that assessment. The toughest time the Bills have had this season was when they faced the Tennessee Titans back in October, with the run threat of Derrick Henry and some stellar play by QB Ryan Tannehill enough to lead the Titans to a 42-16 win.
With Jackson able to run and pass the ball effectively, his dual threat makes this perhaps a much tougher game for the Bills than a look at the season stats suggest.
How do we see the first AFC Divisional Round game playing out?
My advice to any would-be punter on this game would be to hold onto your bet until the last possible minute as weather conditions in Buffalo in the game could well be a hugely decisive factor here.
With two quarterbacks not averse to running the ball, but both capable of passing too, I think if the weather is cold or snowy, that this may well favor the Bills a little more.
Josh Allen and company will already have had their introduction to Buffalo winter weather. The Ravens less so.
With a 20mph wind also predicted for the game, this could also wreak havoc on the passing game for both teams and as such, I’d expect to see both QB’s using their legs more if the wind does pick up in velocity.
If wind is a more determining factor, then I think this favors the Ravens with Jackson’s rushing ability likely to come to the fore.
If the conditions are more benign, then for me this is a coin toss of a game. That Bills offense has a number of dangerous weapons but the Ravens defense shut down a very talented Tennessee offense last week.
Similarly, the Bills defense stepped up well against the Colts when needed. But how can you stop Lamar Jackson when he played like he did against the Titans?
For that reason, I think this is a game that will be decided by maybe just one or two points and in that case, the +2.5 option on the Baltimore Ravens is the pick for me at the moment. But it is on a knife edge.
However, hold off on making that bet until game time and check the weather as if it gets cold and snowy, I may well be opting for the Bills instead!