By Trevor Woods
As the 2019 season has rolled along, the Baltimore Ravens have become the talk of the NFL.
First it was the play of quarterback Lamar Jackson, along with the Ravens stout physicality on the offensive side of the ball.
Now, ever since cornerback Marcus Peters has been in Baltimore, the Ravens defense has been one of the best in the league.
Baltimore appears to be a complete team.
The way the Ravens have gone about going 10-2 to this point hasn't been filled with cupcake games on their schedule, they've battled with some of the best teams in the league. The Ravens have beat the Patriots, Texans, 49ers, Steelers, Rams, and Seahawks along the way. That's an impressive list of W's. However, as far as big-time tests go, Baltimore has yet another they'll need to pass on Sunday.
Baltimore is heading to upstate New York to take on the Buffalo Bills, a team that's having one of their best seasons in over twenty years. The Ravens currently have the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC and have a ton to play for the rest of the year, but the Bills do as well. At 9-3, the Bills are just a game behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East. With a win over Baltimore, the New York Times Playoff Machine would put the Bills chances of making the playoffs at 99%.
Combine that with the fact they'll be playing in front of a fired-up home crowd, this game has all the makings of a playoff-like atmosphere at New Era Field. The Bills are even flying in Doug Flutie to be their "Legend of the Game". When the Bills are good, they live it up in Buffalo and the energy becomes contagious.
In a lot of ways, the Bills have flown under the radar this season, a team that hasn't received much recognition nationally. Part of that is due to the team playing in a small market, but perhaps the other element is their schedule hasn't been nearly as difficult as Baltimore's or other teams that are considered elite. Fair or not, the stats tell the story.
The Bills are just 1-1 against teams with a record of .500 or better, and are 8-2 versus teams with a record below .500. On the flip side, the Ravens are 6-1 against teams with a record of .500 or better, and are 4-1 versus teams below .500. While it isn't entirely fair to judge the Bills on their strength of schedule, the fact still remains that they haven't played a lot of teams that are above average. They don't have control over who they play, all they can do is prepare for each task at hand, but it's fair to say the Ravens are the more battle tested team of the two.
This is the type of tilt where we find out what type of team the Bills truly are, and we'll also find out if the Ravens can continue attacking each game in the same manner while not allowing any hype to get to their heads.
To the Bills credit, they did pass a road test last week on a very big stage on Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys. While the Cowboys are now just 6-7 after their Thursday night loss to the Chicago Bears, Thanksgiving matchups are huge and have a lot of eyeballs and emotion on the game and all the pageantry that goes along with it on Turkey Day.
“We came out and did our thing. Showed the world what we got. Put the world on notice," Bill defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said after their 26-15 victory. "We were the worst 8-3 team in the NFL, now hopefully we get a little respect. We’ll see how that goes.”
The Bills are definitely getting a "little respect", as Phillips hoped, but in order to get more, they'll have to consistently start beating teams above .500. They'll have a shot to do that on Sunday vs. Baltimore.