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Late for Work 9/30: What Pundits Expect in Ravens-Bills Game of the Week

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Majority of Pundits Predict Bills to Win High-Scoring Affair

Sunday's Ravens-Bills game at M&T Bank Stadium will not be played in prime time, but a strong case can be made that it's the marquee game of Week 4.

The showdown between division favorites features two of the NFL's most explosive offenses, which are led by MVP front-runners Lamar Jackson of the Ravens (2-1) and Josh Allen of Buffalo (2-1). Jackson leads the league in touchdown passes (10), total touchdowns (12) and quarterback rating (119.0), while Allen leads in passing yards (1,014) and is second in touchdowns passes (nine).

"Best game of the week," Fansided’s Matt Verderame wrote. "Arguably the top two quarterbacks through the first three weeks going at it."

Not surprisingly, most pundits expect a shootout. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, only 12 of the 45 pundits we sampled are predicting a Ravens victory.

It's only the third time the Ravens have been underdogs at home since Jackson became the starting quarterback during the 2018 season. Baltimore won both times, over the New England Patriots in 2019 and Kansas City Chiefs in 2021.

Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about the game:

Allen will exploit the Ravens defense.

CBS Sports’ John Breech: "Allen is the only QB in the NFL who has gone over 1,000 passing yards through three games this year, and based on how the Ravens are playing, Allen might top 1,000 yards in Week 4 alone. At this point, I think the only way the Ravens can slow Allen down is if they put Lamar Jackson on defense, but that might be too much to ask."

Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith: "I think both quarterbacks will play well, but the Ravens' defense is going to give Josh Allen a few more big-play opportunities."

The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: "The Ravens could not cover New England's DeVante Parker, so what might Allen and [wide recover Stefon] Diggs do against the league's 32nd-ranked pass defense?"

NBC Sports’ Chris Simms: "The Ravens defense is the worst defense in football. … The front seven is really the major problem, and I just feel they're going to be in too many compromised positions. Like, 'Oh, we gotta blitz because we can't get close to Josh Allen.' OK, well then he's gonna torch you. 'Let's just rush four and be safe because he's torching us.' Well then he's going to pick you apart surgically."

If the Bills get a lead, the Ravens won't be able to come back.

Bleacher Report’s Greg Ivory: "The Bills have proved they can play from behind, whereas the Ravens continue to be successful when maintaining a lead — not necessarily playing from behind. I'm taking Buffalo with confidence!"

TheBills will be highly motivated after last week's frustrating loss in Miami.

Around the NFL’s Dan Hanzus: "They might drop a bomb on the Ravens. And maybe it won't be a blowout because of Buffalo's injuries in the back end against a guy as amazing as Lamar will keep the game close, but I think it could be one of those Bills offensive performances where they don't punt."

Jackson will outplay Allen andleadthe Ravens to victory.

Fansided’s Matt Verderame: "[Jackson and Allen] have accounted for more than 85 percent of their team's offense. In this matchup, Lamar Jackson gets the best of Josh Allen."

The key for the Ravens is to get the running game going.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "The Ravens have to figure out a way to run the ball against the league's best run defense. If they are able to do that, that would limit the number of third-and-longs they're in, help neutralize the Bills pass rush and give fewer possessions for Allen. Plus, the forecast for Sunday in Baltimore isn't good. It could be one of those games in which the elements make it very difficult to rely heavily on the downfield passing game."

The Bills’ injury issuescould give the Ravens the edge.

Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich: "On paper, this matchup favors the Bills. However, the Ravens are looking to avenge that Miami loss in the home opener and Buffalo is dealing with numerous injuries. The Ravens pull off the upset."

The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia: "There's a scenario where Allen lights up this Ravens defense and the Bills' pass rush harasses Jackson all afternoon. But given how banged up the Bills' secondary is and how grueling that Week 3 game was, I'm going with Baltimore."

Simms: "The only thing I worry about for the Bills is the health of their football team. Their injury list seems rather long right now."

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "The Bills are playing consecutive road games, which is always tough. But they are also coming off their first loss and have major injury issues."

Table inside Article
Source Prediction Commentary
ESPN 5 of 8 panelists pick Ravens
Baltimore Sun Bills 30, Ravens 27 “These are two of the NFL’s top three scoring teams, with [Lamar] Jackson and [Josh] Allen at or near the top of early Most Valuable Player lists. The essential matchup will be Allen vs. the Ravens’ erratic pass defense. Can the Baltimore secondary clamp down on big plays while continuing to generate turnovers? The Bills are the safer bet because they’ve been sounder on both sides of the ball.” — Childs Walker
USA Today 6 of 7 panelists pick Bills Bills 33, Ravens 28 “Buffalo's secondary is hurting at the wrong time, heading into another game against one of the league's top passing outfits. Then again, Baltimore doesn't have much beyond Lamar Jackson right now. The Ravens' running backs are stuck in quicksand, they are on their fourth left tackle, the run defense is struggling, and the rookies in the secondary are getting picked on. That's too many flaws for this Bills team to pick apart.” — Gregg Rosenthal
NFL Network 9 of 10 panelists pick Bills
Sporting News Bills 27, Ravens 24 “The health of Buffalo's secondary is a concern here, but its zone defense will contain the chunk plays from Jackson. Baltimore, even with its playmaking talent on the back end, has proved it can give up too much downfield because of needing to resort more to blitzing.” — Vinnie Iyer
CBS Sports 5 of 8 panelists pick Bills “Look for a lot of points as Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson shoot it out. Look for the Bills to get the best of it and get back in the win column.” — Pete Prisco
Pro Football Talk 3 of 3 panelists pick Bills “Two of the best teams in the league meeting in what could be an AFC playoff preview. I think both quarterbacks will play well, but the Ravens’ defense is going to give Josh Allen a few more big-play opportunities.” — Michael David Smith
Sports Illustrated 4 of 5 panelists pick Bills
FanSided Ravens 35, Bills 30 “Best game of the week. Arguably the top two quarterbacks through the first three weeks going at it. Both have accounted for more than 85 percent of their team’s offense. In this matchup, Lamar Jackson gets the best of Josh Allen.” — Matt Verderame

Ringer Writer Contends Ravens' Explosive Offense Isn't Sustainable

There's no question that Jackson and the Ravens offense have been amazing this season, but The Ringer’s Steven Ruiz doesn't believe it's sustainable.

"Some key underlying numbers suggest this league-leading offense is really just a house of cards that's being propped up by Lamar's individual brilliance," Ruiz wrote. "And so far, the answer to the most pressing question facing [Coordinator Greg] Roman and his offense this year — can it put together a fully functional dropback passing game that isn't solely powered by Lamar's unique mobility? — is no.

"In order to illustrate how dependent Baltimore has been on Lamar's legs over the first three weeks of the season, let's break down how the offense is moving the ball. Outside of the red zone, the Ravens currently rank eighth in total EPA, per TruMedia. But how much of that is just Lamar? Take scrambles out of the equation and the Ravens drop down to 11th. Only four passers have generated more production on scrambles. And if you take out QB runs altogether, the Ravens drop to 15th. What that means is: The offense has been elite when Lamar ends up running with the football. When the ball ends up in someone else's hands, it's been about average—and that's not even giving Lamar credit for the attention he attracts in the run game when he doesn't have the ball in his hands. Then, when you exclude scrambles, designed QB keepers, and read-option plays, the Ravens rank last in EPA per rush and 30th in success rate.

"Having the quarterback read an unblocked defender tilts the numbers back toward the offense's favor — and linebackers' eyes are constantly glued to Lamar when he's a threat to run—which gives Roman a privilege that few coordinators enjoy to this extent. But when Baltimore has run from under center, which eliminates the quarterback run threat, the results are ugly."

Ruiz listed statistics for his contention that the Ravens haven't performed well in the run game when Jackson is under center, although some took issue with his methodology on Twitter.

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