For the first time since the 1995 season, the Buffalo Bills are gearing up for a Divisional Round game in the NFL Playoffs. It is also the first time the Bills will play at home for the Divisional Round since the 1993 season, en route for Buffalo's final trip to the Super Bowl in the 1990s.
The Bills got to this point after earning a 27-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card Round on Saturday afternoon at Bills Stadium in Orchard Park. It was another productive performance for Josh Allen, who ended his afternoon throwing for 324 yards and two touchdowns, while completing 74.3% of his passes. Allen also added a team-high 54 yards on 11 carries on the ground, while running in a touchdown late in the first half.
The No. 2 seed in the AFC will face, maybe, its toughest challenge to date in the 2020 season as the fifth-seeded Baltimore Ravens come to town after a 20-13 win over the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday in Nashville.
The Ravens offense, led by quarterback Lamar Jackson, can certainly advance the ball through the air, but it is the run game that is most dangerous to the Bills this week. Baltimore has a number of weapons they can turn to on the ground, as they finished the 2020 season averaging 191.9 yards per-game.
Buffalo's rushing defense got gashed earlier in the season but improved as the year went on, averaging 119.6 yards-against per-game. However, they gave up 163 yards on the ground to the Colts this past Saturday, who were led primarily be running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines.
Defensively, the Ravens finished the 2020 campaign as one of the better units in the league, giving up an average of just 329.8 yards per-game. The Baltimore defense really stood out last week against Derrick Henry and the Titans, giving up just 209 yards of total offense and limited Henry to just 40 yards rushing on the day.
If the Bills are going to be able to find a way to produce on Saturday, they can do so with Allen and the offense, who finished the regular season as the second-best unit, averaging 396.4 yards per-game. Compared to last year's Week 14 regular season matchup in Orchard Park where Buffalo accounted for just 105 passing yards in a 24-17 loss, Allen and the passing game this season were excellent, averaging 288.8 yards per-game.
However, it will take a complete effort on Saturday night to beat one of the hottest teams in the NFL heading into the postseason. Baltimore closed out the regular season with five wins in a row, with Sunday's win over Tennessee being their sixth-consecutive win.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott is aware of the challenge that the Ravens will bring to his team this weekend. He joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White on Wednesday for his weekly appearance on WGR to speak about Saturday's contest, as well as how his team is preparing for the big matchup ahead.
Here is some of what he had to say:
McDermott on the loss of Zack Moss to the running backs group:
"He's a good player, as all the Bills fans were able to witness this year. I think he's going to have a really good career. He's tough, he runs at a good level, and he and Devin [Singletary] really made a good 1-2 combination there. But we have a lot of confidence in the rest of the [running backs] on our roster. T.J. Yeldon has played in a lot of games, and played at a high level. You take it all the way down to Antonio [Williams] and what we saw him do a couple of weeks ago. We'll just continue to monitor and see how it goes this week."
McDermott on his team's preparations for each game in the playoffs:
"I think pressure is relative to the person and maybe the situation, but it's all about how you interpert it. I think our guys have done a great job of playing in games that people would consider big, and in big moments of the game, in particular this past weekend. We try to stay in a routine, and make sure we're ready to go to perform at a high level."
McDermott on Allen when facing the blitz this season:
"I think it's part of his growth, part of the next step in his evolution and his development. The longer you work at something, the longer you're around NFL defenses and how they like to play in different concepts, I think you get better-and-better with it. What we were able to do in training camp, as well, when we were able to give Josh and our offense different looks intentionally. Whether it was rushing three, max-rushing with max-blitzing, all the different looks that we wanted to get him the offense ready for, I think that also helped us out as well."
McDermott on facing a tough Ravens defense:
"They're skilled. They've got all three starting corners back, including their nickel that played us last year, and they're a very physical, handsy defense. We're going to have to play strong and play physical on the perimeter of our offense."
McDermott on trying to defend Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson:
"Can you catch him? You feel like you have a good plan, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to catch him. You have to be able to tackle him. That'll be big in this game, as it always is. There's people out there that watched the game this past week; on one of the long runs, there were two spies on him. They were fast, they were defensive back spies, and they couldn't catch him. He split them. It's one thing to have the right population [on him], and it's another to thing to [go make] the play."
You can listen to the entire interview below: