Columnist Mike Preston examines three areas that could prove pivotal in Saturday night’s AFC divisional-round matchup between the Ravens and Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium:
Who is the King of Improvisation?
Talent wise, the teams are even, so the game might come down to which quarterback will make the most plays when the ones originally called in the huddle break down. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is the most elusive player in the league and makes plays outside the pocket with his feet. He is nearly impossible to bring down in the open field one-on-one and is one of the few players in NFL history who can make almost any cut at full speed. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen extends plays with his arm. He can’t scramble like Jackson, but he is mobile and is much more accurate throwing on the run than Jackson. He also is bigger at 6-feet-5 and 237 pounds and isn’t afraid to take on defenders.
The Ravens have had problems pass blocking at right tackle, where they have used D.J. Fluker and rookie Tyre Phillips. On Saturday night, they will face defensive end/outside linebackers Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy. In the ideal situation, the Ravens want Fluker on the field in running situations because he is a more powerful blocker than Phillips. Phillips has quicker feet, but he has struggled in pass protection as well. Hughes is an 11-year veteran who has 29 tackles this season, including 4½ sacks. Murphy has 19 tackles and two sacks.
Keep an eye on Bills return specialist Andre Roberts, who can change the momentum of a game quickly. Roberts likes to start running one way, then plant his foot and change directions quickly. He’s averaging 30 yards per return on 32 kickoffs this season, earning second-team All-Pro honors. Opposing teams have started kicking away from him on punts. Roberts has 12 fair catches, but when he does return a punt, he’s averaging 9.9 yards.