Now that the Super Wildcard Weekend is over, the AFC Divisional Playoffs will start next weekend. That means there is less football but better competition. A game that was not very competitive, the Sunday night football game between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
The Browns took advantage of a bad snap by the Steelers on the first play and scored quickly, quickly followed by an interception leading to another score. Cleveland promptly jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and extended it to 28 points in the second. However, Pittsburgh put up a score before halftime, but it would not matter much because Cleveland would do the same, putting the score at 35-7 at the half. Not to mention, the Browns would get the ball back to start the second half.
A game with some competitive fire was the matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills, who played on Saturday. Of course, the Bills come into the AFC Divisional Playoffs as the number two seed and a 13-3 record in the regular season. However, their spot in the AFC Divisional Playoffs was threatened, as Phillip Rivers and the Colts put up a fight. Ultimately, Josh Allen and company closed out the game with a 27-24 win, advancing to the next round.
As the Bills awaited to find out who their opponent would be, the Titans and Ravens would be going at each other in a battle between two teams with no remorse for the other. In their last two matchups, the Titans got the best of Baltimore. Even last season, with the Ravens as the number one seed at 14-2, Tennessee went in and took over. Well, it is safe to say that the Ravens were tired of it all. They showed up in this one, and the defensive line shut down the 2000 yard rusher in Derrick Henry, a feat that had to be accomplished in order to get to the AFC Divisional playoffs.
With a Ravens win, the Bills just needed to know who would win between the Browns and Steelers, as they would be assigned the highest remaining seeded team. I’m sure Buffalo found it evident early into the Sunday night football game who exactly they would be playing on Saturday night.
Looking at the Buffalo Bills Offense
There is no hiding the talent that Buffalo has on their offense. An MVP candidate matched with the best wide receiver this year can tend to be an unstoppable matchup. Josh Allen has improved dramatically since entering the league, and CBS showed a graphic to prove it on Saturday. His most significant improvement: Allen’s throwing accuracy, which increased from 52% his first season- ranking last in the NFL- to 69% this season- which ranks fourth overall this season.
It has been said that Allen has also improved his ability to read defenses, which is something that usually happens as you mature in the NFL. He showed just against a vigorous Colts defense and will continue to in the AFC Divisional playoffs.
The Ravens showed they are excellent at stopping the run, and luckily for the Bills, they don’t run the ball much. The Bills are in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards per game and total rushing yards during the regular season. However, they are third in total passing yards and passing yards per game. Of course, this is attributed to the fantastic season both Allen and Stefon Diggs had this year.
In Diggs’s first year with the Bills, he finished first in total receiving yards with 1535 and first in receptions with 127. Thus far, the two have shown that they are a match made in heaven and could potentially be the duo needed to get Buffalo over the hump. However, some things stood out in the Bills game on Saturday that may need to be addressed if they want to win their game in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
The offensive line needs to step up on Saturday, especially if they want their franchise quarterback beyond this season. Against the Colts, who finished 12th in the regular season in sacks with 40, Allen took two sacks and was hit six times. Even with mobile legs, Allen can only do so much, meaning his line needs to step up.
The Ravens were not as good at getting to the quarterback during the season, but they were not bad by any means. With 39 sacks on the year, Baltimore finished 14th in sacks. While they only had one sack on Tennessee, their defensive line is scary. That’s a proponent of the game that this dangerous Bills team can improve for Saturday’s AFC Divisional Playoffs.
Flying Through Ravens Offense
The Raven’s offense is not something to gloss over lightly because, in the last few weeks of the regular season, they were as hot as anyone. They finished the season as the best statistical running team, with a combination of running backs and an elite quarterback getting it done. Their quarterback alone ran for over 1000 rushing yards, while the primary running back, J.K Dobbins, ran for 800 yards.
While they are a great running team, they can get it done in the air as well with good pieces around Lamar Jackson. Marquis Brown and Mark Andrews played great on Saturday and finished with a combined 150 receiving yards. The speed of both at their position makes them lethal for a big play down the field after a play action.
Baltimore had some plays in their matchup with Tennessee that made NFL Twitter blow up. 6’3″, 300 pounds full back Patrick Ricard took three passes for 26 yards and looked very fast doing so.
However, this team revolves around the run, and the Bills were not the best at defending it during the season. Buffalo finished 17th in the regular season in rush yards allowed per game at 119. Baltimore averaged 191 rush yards per game during the regular season and finished with 236 against the Titans on Saturday. However, this team also has something they need to fix before their AFC Divisional playoffs.
They also have issues on their offensive line. Obviously, their high paid lineman was hurt during the regular season and is out for the rest, but that is no excuse to allow an awful Titans pass rush to do what they did. Tennessee finished the season with 19 sacks, the third-worst in the regular season. On Saturday, they brought down Jackson five times and hit him seven times. Yes, Jackson is as mobile as it gets but can struggle on Saturday in the AFC Divisional playoffs if the offensive line doesn’t protect him.
A Weak-Buff Bills Defense
The Bills may be the best all-around team in the AFC Divisional playoffs, but their defense struggled against the Colts. Phillip Rivers torched this defense at times in the second half, but of course, it was not enough to make it to the AFC Divisional Playoffs. After an incredible 13-3 season, the Bills were electric on offense and middle of the pack on defense. There is proof in the pudding after the Colts scored 24 points on Saturday.
Buffalo averaged 352 yards per game allowed in the regular season, which was 14th of all opponents. It showed on Saturday when the Colts had more total yards than the Bills, with their 472 to Buffalo’s 397. Yes, they still got the win, but that is less likely to happen if they allow Baltimore to do that.
The 17th ranked run defense has to be better against the Ravens, which is relatively apparent. But, the biggest issue is the Buffalo pass defense. A part of their team that struggled against the Colts, especially late in the game. The Bills allowed Indianapolis to drive down the field late in the fourth with big pass plays. Baltimore can set up the play-action for a big pass play off of the strength of their run. This defense-offense matchup should be one to watch in the AFC Divisional playoffs.
Grounded Ravens Defense
The Ravens absolutely shut down the best running back in the league in Derrick Henry. The 2000 yard rusher did not even have a chance to pass 50 rushing yards on the game. Baltimore stacked the box with at least eight defenders on 72% of Henry’s run, leaving him at 1.8 yards per carry. They will need to make sure Allen does not have the freedom to run in their AFC Divisional playoffs game.
Now that information may not be as helpful against the Bills, who do not run the ball a lot and didn’t during the regular season. However, Josh Allen ran a few quarterback draws for himself in the RedZone, one leading to a touchdown.
This Baltimore defense will make it tougher to allow Allen to escape the pocket in their AFC Divisional playoffs matchup. We know that Josh Allen is excellent outside the pocket and is not as good in the pocket. The Colts did that to an extent, and the Ravens may be better suited at that job.
Baltimore also has a good secondary that matches up well with the Bills receivers. Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey are a deadly secondary threat that can pose problems for Diggs. However, the two struggled with A.J. Brown in Tennessee, who went for 83 yards and a touchdown. Obviously, it was not enough as the Ravens are now in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
AFC Divisional Playoffs: Prediction
These AFC Divisional Playoffs have crazy matchups in both games, but this game is unique. There are a few narratives on both sides between the two quarterbacks. They are both known for their “choke jobs” in previous playoff appearances. However, they both got over the first hump. The reigning MVP vs. the MVP candidate and the electric offense vs. the powerful defense, to name a few of the storylines. These are two different types of offenses as well and can score in different ways.
The two AFC Divisional playoffs games are important because the winner of the two will play for a ticket to Tampa. But it’s easy to look ahead because of the fantastic football we have in store for us.
In this one, it will be a battle between the two teams to see who will have a chance at Kansas City or Cleveland. I feel as if this game will be a lower scoring game, but not too low. It definitely will not be too high scoring due to the defenses and different play styles.
AFC Divisional Playoffs: Underrated Players to Watch for
One of the most underrated players on this Baltimore Ravens offense is rookie Miles Boykin. The 25-year-old receiver from Notre Dame had a decent season, especially considering he was the fourth option on the offense. Boykin finished with 19 receptions on 33 targets in the regular season, placing him at 117th in total receptions. The 6’4″ speedster finished with four touchdowns and 266 yards, helping his 62.6 ratings by Pro Football Focus. Boykin has the ability to pull off a big play on one single reception, and he showed that against the Bengals with his 43-yard play.
However, Boykin was not very involved in Sunday’s game against the Titans. He was only targeted once and did not have a reception. It was not that he didn’t play, because he did. Boykin was involved in 63% of offensive snaps and 28% of special team snaps. Even with those numbers, the young receiver can help his team in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
This guy may have been the best defensive pick of his draft class in the last draft that took place virtually. Patrick Queen has been a leader for this Ravens team in his first season. The former LSU linebacker leads the team in total tackles with 104, and to be a rookie and come in and do that speaks volumes to his talent.
Queen also registered another important stat for his team this season, in fact, three of those stats. As a linebacker, Queen has three sacks on the season, fifth-most on the Ravens, a team full of good pass rushers.
But that isn’t all Queen can do, and he showed that this season. The 21-year-old linebacker can also drop back in coverage and even registered an interception along with two pass deflections.
His game on Sunday was not the best, but he was just as helpful as normal. He had a few pressure on the quarterback and even hit him once, as well as a few tackles. Not only will Patrick Queen be a big player to watch in the AFC Divisional playoffs, but he will be a player to watch for many years to come.
The 29-year-old vet from Oregon State has put on a show this season and showed why Buffalo has one of the best secondary units in the NFL and the AFC Divisional playoffs. Poyer paired with Micah Hyde, and Tre’ White is a tandem that is difficult to match for most teams.
Poyer finished the season with the most tackles on his team at 124 total. He also registered a couple of sacks to go along with six tackles for loss. The Safety can do it all and did a little in Saturday’s matchup with the Colts, where he helped them get a win and reserve a spot in the AFC Divisional playoffs. Poyer finished with nine tackles and locked down his zones at times, making it harder for Rivers to find receivers.
It must be a great feeling making it to the AFC Divisional playoffs as a rookie, and that’s just what Gabriel Davis has done. He had a pretty good regular season for a rookie, finishing as the third option. The former UCF receiver finished his first year with 600 yards and seven touchdowns, which is an excellent product for how late he was drafted.
The fourth-rounder played great in his first playoff game as well. While he was not the best receiver on the field, he was definitely second. Davis put up 85 receiving yards and had two incredible toe drag catches on the sideline that ended up being big plays for the Bills. While he was great on Saturday, he may struggle in the AFC Divisional playoffs, as the Ravens’ secondary is lethal.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: AFC Divisional Playoffs, Game two on Saturday Night Football. 7:15 EST Kickoff
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