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Both the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens vanquished AFC South foes behind electric - if not a little uneven - performances from their dual-threat quarterbacks. Now, the Bills (-2.5, 50) host the Ravens in a game between two teams that oddsmakers consider virtually equal.
It's hard to find two hotter teams in the field than these ones. The Bills have won an NFL-best seven straight games since their Week 11 bye and covered eight straight against the spread before the Indianapolis Colts snapped that streak a week ago. Meanwhile, the Ravens covered their seventh consecutive in the wild-card round and have won six straight games by an average of 17.3 points.
That narrow win for Buffalo could be a positive sign for Saturday. The Bills have covered in eight straight contests following a victory of three points or less and are 72.7% in that spot this century. Conversely, last week's inspired win at the Tennessee Titans presents a tricky spot for Baltimore. Since 2014, road playoff teams coming off an away postseason win are 6-12 ATS and an alarming 1-17 straight-up, which is tough news for those banking on an upset.
Oddsmakers are pricing these two as equals, though, which could be good news for Ravens bettors. Since 2001, playoff road underdogs catching less than three points are 15-3-2 ATS with 13 outright victories in 20 games. Baltimore has also covered an absurd 10 straight as a 'dog and is 24-7-1 ATS on the road since 2017.
Will these offenses light up the scoreboard as many bettors expect? The trends are skeptical; the Ravens are 14-4 to the under after holding an opponent to 14 or fewer points. The last 25 playoff games with a total of 50 or higher went 16-9 to the under, including in three straight.
Josh Allen vs. Ravens' blitz
The book on Allen used to be to bombard him with pressure and force him to make throws he simply wasn't comfortable making. Among quarterbacks with at least 250 dropbacks, he ranked last in completion percentage while pressured in 2018 (28.3%) and third-last in 2019 (41.2%), according to PFF, facing an above-average blitz rate in both seasons.
In some ways, that's still the recipe. Allen has completed 49.5% of his passes when pressured this year, which ranks 18th among 35 quarterbacks, and he's thrown six of his 10 interceptions under duress. Despite that, he's absolutely skewered teams that blitz him, ranking first in touchdowns (19) and yards (1,850) and third in PFF's "big-time throws" (13) against the blitz.
The Ravens are the most blitz-heavy team in the league, sending extra pressure on 45.1% of snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. Yet they rank fifth in pressure rate (25.9%) and are below-average in hurry rate (9.1%), and their sack total (39) is underwhelming given how many pass-rushers they send per play.
That leaves a massive window of opportunity for Allen to pick apart an aggressive Baltimore defense, if he can avoid the heat. He's struggled in two prior meetings with the Ravens, combining for 220 passing yards and one touchdown with nine sacks in a pair of losses. Can he make this defense pay this time around?
I've stared at this game all week and can't confidently put my weight behind either side. Allen could explode against the Ravens' defense and force Lamar Jackson to come from behind for a second straight week. But if Baltimore builds an early lead, the Bills' run defense is ill-equipped to force stops, and the Ravens' unit can pin its ears back and force Allen into uncomfortable spots.
The biggest factor could be the weather, which is expected to be near-freezing with a chance of snow. That would change the dynamic of both offenses, which are built on speed and explosive plays. This total is a shade too high for the matchup, so play the under and cross your fingers for snow.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.