Another win for ‘The Great Suuma’ last week brings his record to 11-4-2 (73%) on the season. He’s keeping his focus on the AFC again this week!
I’m not gonna lie – I had the Bills -6.5 last week but I think the Colts deserved to win straight up. They had everything they wanted through the air but shot themselves in the foot several times – by running the ball too often on early downs, missing a field goal, dropping some passes and failing on fourth down. They surprised me with how well they were able to throw the ball. Philip Rivers had a decent performance, hitting strikes with precision and accuracy.
Here comes the interesting part regarding the Bills: They had poor field position throughout the first half, and they went 2 for 9 on 3rd downs. They were averaging -0.52 EPA/play on 3rd downs against the Colts, after averaging 0.27 EPA/play and the second-highest success rate during the regular season.
Despite that, they still casually dropped 27 points offensively, which was enough to seal the game in the end. They had three short 3rd downs that resulted in a combined 3 points:
- 3rd & 3: incomplete
- 3rd & 1: run for no gain
- 3rd & 2: tackle for loss
Buffalo played very well on early downs (0.35 EPA/play) and with two more conversions on short late downs, the game probably wouldn’t have been close in the end.
We cashed with the Ravens -3 last week and a major part of our handicap was the fact that the Titans wouldn’t change their run-first approach even if it’s not working.
Lo and behold that’s exactly what happened:
The Titans were averaging 0.40 EPA/play more on early-down passes (including the late interception) than they did on early-down runs but they tried to establish the run throughout the entire game. It also helped that Vrabel didn’t go for it in obvious 4th down situations. The difference in that game – to me – was coaching on the Titans side.
Against the Bills, the Ravens are going to face a 180 turn in terms of coaching and in-game adjustments.
It should be noted that they are playing their 3rd consecutive road game whereas the Bills have been staying at home for three weeks now.
Without the ‘Hail Murray’, the Bills would be riding an 11-game win streak right now.
They have been the best passing offense after Green Bay and their defense progressed as the season went on.
Bills OC Brian Daboll has called the highest rate of passes on early downs this season (64%) and he won’t make the same mistake the Titans (lowest rate of early down passes) did last Sunday.
The Titans invited the Ravens defense to play up to their strengths.
The Bills understand that they cannot run the ball against this Ravens front, so I am not expecting them to try to establish it.
We can point to evidence from the regular season where Daboll countered a good run defense by slinging it down the field.
Even though the Ravens are equipped with cornerbacks and a scheme that don’t have to hide against any passing attack – it is very hard for ANY defense to stop the Bills passing game.
Josh Allen is playing on an MVP level, they’ve got solid protection, a good receiving corps and Daboll absolutely knows what he’s doing.
Considering that the Bills are capable of scoring, it will get interesting how their defense attacks Lamar Jackson.
Buffalo were able to shut down the Colts run game for the most part.
They held Jonathan Taylor to -0.17 EPA/rush and gave up some chunk plays in the fourth quarter when they were playing prevent defense and invited Indy to run the ball. Rivers just gashed them from the pocket.
That’s not the style the Ravens play.
Baltimore will create chunk plays on the ground, but the Titans put a recipe on tape of how to slow them down quite a bit – for instance by using slot cornerback Desmond King as a spy that turns into a blitzer on passing downs or by attacking the gaps that get open on the “counter bash” runs.
The Titans also flooded the middle of the field in coverage, because that’s Jackson’s favourable area to attack through the air. And the Bills have a much better front seven and secondary than the Titans.
While I don’t think the Bills can shut down the Ravens offense, they should be more successful than their counterpart on the other side.
Josh Allen and the offense should have enough firepower to get ahead and put more stress and urgency on the Ravens that forces more obvious passing situations.
I am riding with the elite and consistent passing offense laying less than a touchdown at home.
I made this number Bills -3 / -3.5 and believe there was some recency bias shaping the market early in the week. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the number closing around 3 on Saturday.
There are some winds in the forecast, but at 10-11 mph it’s nothing to worry about. The precip probability is below 20%.
- Buffalo Bills -2.5 -106 / 1.94