Ravens vs. Bills Is the Game 'Everybody in the World Wants to See'
As much fun as it's been to revel in the Ravens' victory over the Tennessee Titans, it's time to turn the page and start focusing on Saturday night's AFC divisional round game against the Bills in Buffalo.
Several pundits believe it's the best matchup of the four games this weekend. That's saying something considering two of the best quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, will face off when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.
The Ringer's Kevin Clark said the Ravens-Bills game "has the capability to be maybe one of the best playoff games we've seen in a couple years."
Clark was especially interested to see the battle between the Bills' explosive passing game, led by quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and the Ravens' vaunted pass defense.
"I think that having [cornerbacks] Marcus Peters back there and Marlon Humphrey, I'm really intrigued to see how they match up against Buffalo. I think it's going to be pretty close, quite frankly," Clark said. "I think this is going to come down to a handful of plays. … I think that this is one of the most intriguing matchups of the season at any point."
NBC Sports' Peter King said Ravens-Bills is the game to watch next weekend because both teams have been playing as well as anyone in the league over the past seven weeks.
"The revived Ravens have been playing playoff games since the weird Wednesday afternoon loss in Pittsburgh; they've won six straight," King wrote. "Buffalo's won seven in a row. Both quarterbacks, hot. Both defenses, hot."
The quarterbacks – Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen – will take center stage as two of the best young signal-callers in the NFL. Jackson was last year's MVP and Allen is in the conversation for the award this season.
"I'm very excited about this Saturday night because you've got Lamar Jackson on one side and Josh Allen on the other side," said NBC play-by-play announcer Al Michaels, who will call the game.
After "Pardon the Interruption's" Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon praised the performances of the Ravens defense and Jackson against the Titans, Kornheiser said: "And this sets up a game with Buffalo that everybody in the world is going to want to see."
Wilbon added: "To quote Bart Scott, can't wait."
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal wrote: "All of the divisional round matchups are compelling, but this one is my favorite. I have no clue what will happen, and I could see either team winning the Super Bowl."
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith doesn't see it that way, specifically in regards to Buffalo. When asked on ESPN’s “First Take” whether the Bills can dethrone the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs, Smith said they won't make it to Kansas City.
"An unequivocal no," Smith said. "To win the Super Bowl you got to get to the AFC Championship Game first. How the hell you going to do that getting through the Baltimore Ravens? I don't see that happening. … "I think Baltimore obviously is going to give them a lot of trouble. I don't see a Super Bowl in the Bills picture this year. Not even close."
Wink Martindale Lauded for Defense's Stifling Performance Against Titans
One of the biggest stars in the Ravens' win over the Titans didn't play a single snap: Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale.
Martindale's unit held the league's second-ranked offense to season lows of 209 yards and 13 points. Tennessee averaged 396 yards and 30.7 points during the regular season. All-Pro running back Derrick Henry was limited to a season-low 40 yards rushing on 18 carries (2.2 average).
"The work of Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale on Sunday afternoon shouldn't be undersold," Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer wrote. "Some of the simplicity of the Titans' offense, which allows Tennessee to play with tempo and precision, was turned against Tennessee by Martindale and the Baltimore defensive staff. The Ravens continually mixed fronts on the Titans, making it more difficult for Derrick Henry and the offensive line to get their bearings, or in any kind of rhythm. And similar multiplicity in coverage slowed Ryan Tannehill down, too."
"Good Morning Football's" Kyle Brandt gave his game ball for wild-card weekend to Martindale and his defense.
"The Baltimore Ravens are only allowed 11 players on defense at a time by law. They had 22 different players on the roster make tackles. Twenty made solo tackles," Brandt said. "They stopped the juggernaut. The only real juggernaut running the ball in this league is Derrick Henry, and he just ran into a brick wall that is going on to the next round. The Ravens defense and Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale — game ball. Amazing day."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec noted that Titans Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith has reportedly gotten interest from six teams with head coaching vacancies, while Martindale has received none.
"You'd have to think that after watching what the Ravens did to the Titans' offense Sunday, at least one or two of those teams might feel compelled to give Martindale a call," Zrebiec wrote. "The lack of head coaching interest in Martindale to this point has left a lot of people around the team scratching their heads."
NFL Network's Michael Silver also is perplexed as to why Martindale's phone hasn't been ringing to this point.
"I have no understanding of how, given what that unit's done the last three years, this guy is not getting coaching interest yet. I hope that changes," Silver said.
Last offseason, Martindale interviewed for the New York Giants' head coaching vacancy.
Rex Ryan joined "The Lounge" last week and said his good friend, "deserves a head coaching job."
"I see the list of guys that are out there and quite honestly I'm like, 'What? C'mon!'" Ryan said. "This guy's a real coach. He's not a pretty boy. He's there based on his merits as a football coach and his intelligence. He's not a pretty boy that's there to look good in your media guide. He's forgotten more football than half the guys on this list."
James Urban Ranked as One of Top Potential Candidates for Eagles' Head Coaching Vacancy
Another Ravens coach who should be under consideration for a head coaching job is Quarterbacks Coach James Urban, CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr wrote. Kerr listed Urban at No. 4 on his top-10 list of candidates for the Philadelphia Eagles' vacancy.
"If the Eagles want to commit to [Jalen] Hurts as the starting quarterback, they should strongly consider the work Urban has done with Lamar Jackson over the last two years," Kerr wrote.
Urban, who turned down a chance to be the Eagles' offensive coordinator last year, coached Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick to a Pro Bowl when he was Philadelphia's quarterbacks coach in 2009-2010.
"Urban isn't on the radar for head coaching vacancies, but neither was [Andy] Reid in 1999," Kerr wrote. "That turned out well for Philadelphia."
Snow Is Possible for Saturday's Game
As should be no surprise for this time of year, weather could be a factor in Saturday's game in Buffalo.
A cold front will move into the area during the day on Friday and could bring with it a few inches of snow. That's what Aaron Reynolds, the meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo, told The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer.
After that, the lake effect could bring more snowfall to Buffalo, Reynolds said. It's still too early to say what the weather could look like at game time — 8:15 Saturday night.
The last time the Ravens played in the snow was in 2013 against the Minnesota Vikings at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens prevailed, 29-26, in one of the wildest finishes in NFL history.