Buffalo Bills vs. Baltimore Ravens
Line: Buffalo -2.5
Where: Bills Stadium
When: Saturday, 1/16, at 8:15 p.m. ET
Two teams on long winning streaks will square off in the AFC Divisional Round when No. 2 Buffalo hosts No. 5 Baltimore.
The Bills were unable to cover as 6.5-point home favorites against Indianapolis in their Wild Card game last week, but they held on for the 27-24 victory. Baltimore got off to a slow start in Nashville, but a dominant defensive effort in the second half led to a 20-13 win over the Titans.
Buffalo opened as a 3.5-point home favorite in this game, but early money has come in on the underdog, pushing the line down to -2.5. Saturday night’s total opened at 50 and is still sitting at that number as of Thursday morning.
Weather could be an even bigger factor than normal. Buffalo is expected to get around one inch of snow on Saturday, according to Weather.com. The increased importance is due to Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson’s experience playing in the snow.
“Zero,” Jackson said when asked about his experience playing in snowy weather. “Saturday would be my first time playing football in the snow, if it does. Hopefully, it don’t.”
Jackson grew up in South Florida and played at Louisville in college. He rushed for a season-high 136 yards in Sunday’s win over Tennessee. The Ravens have now tallied at least 230 rushing yards in five of their last six games.
Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards both averaged 4.8 yards per carry in last week’s win. Wide receiver Marquise Brown caught seven passes for 109 yards, while tight end Mark Andrews added four receptions for 41 yards.
They will be facing a Buffalo defense that has been much better against the pass than against the run. The Bills gave up 4.6 yards per rush attempt this season, ranking eighth worst in the league. They were No. 13 against the pass and were tied for third in turnovers forced.
It was the offense that propelled Buffalo to the No. 2 seed in the AFC, though. Quarterback Josh Allen has shown drastic improvement over the last two seasons. He threw a league-best 19 touchdown passes against pressure, which is a key factor against a Baltimore defense that blitzes more than any team in the NFL.
Allen earned his first Pro Bowl nod after throwing for more than 4,500 yards and notching 35 touchdown passes. His top target has been Stefon Diggs, who led the league in receptions and receiving yards. Baltimore is expected to put cornerback Marlon Humphrey on Diggs.
Veteran wide receiver Cole Beasley had 82 receptions for 967 yards and four touchdowns this season. Rookie running back Zach Moss was carted off the field with an ankle injury last week and is out for the season. Devin Singletary is expected to play an even bigger role with Moss sidelined.
They will go up against a Baltimore defense that has allowed 14 or fewer points in four straight games. Cornerback Jimmy Smith and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue both returned for last week’s Wild Card contest.
Baltimore has covered the spread in each of its last seven games and is 6-3 ATS in its last nine games against Buffalo. The Bills have covered in eight of their last nine games.
The total has gone over at a 12-5 clip in Buffalo’s last 17 games, but the under has cashed in four of its last five meetings at home against Baltimore.
The pick: Baltimore +125
Now that the line has dipped to +2.5, there is more value with Baltimore on the money line than the spread. Each of these teams are peaking at the right time, but the Ravens are a bad matchup for Buffalo. They are going to run the ball at a high clip and the Bills have struggled against the run this season. Jackson might be playing in his first snow game, but I would be surprised if it’s much of a factor. Buffalo’s rushing attack will be limited after Moss’s injury and Baltimore’s defense is playing really well after getting some key pieces back from injury. I expect the Ravens to wear down the Bills in a similar fashion to last week’s game in Nashville.