M&T Bank Stadium has been something of a house-of-horrors for the Dolphins for a number of years. Even when the Ravens travel to South Florida, it has typically been the midnight hour on any sort of Cinderella season for Miami.
Last December, the Ravens exposed Miami’s ragtag group of backup linebackers. Baltimore nickel and dimed the Dolphins defense with quick hitters to Dennis Pitta for the entirety of the game. At the time, the 38-6 drubbing was thought to have ended the Dolphins miracle run (Miami would go on to win the next three games and clinch an AFC playoff berth.)
In 2014, the Dolphins met Baltimore for another pivotal AFC showdown. Miami jumped out to a 10-0 lead before the Ravens rattled off a 28-3 run to end the Dolphins hope at a post-season bid.
The only time Miami seems to be able to beat Baltimore, is when the game has little relevance to either team’s respective season. In 2007, the 0-13 Dolphins captured its first win over the eventual 5-11 Ravens. In 2015, the ‘Phins beat another eventual 5-11 Ravens squad in a not-so-old-fashioned 15-13 slobberknocker.
Ravens Offense vs. Miami Defense:
Renewing this lopsided rivalry on a short-week all but guarantees this defensive struggle will be an ugly game. The Ravens offense hasn’t yet found its footing through seven games. With a banged up receiving corps, Baltimore will rely on the services of Chris Moore and Griff Whalen. Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are both questionable.
The Ravens running game is a gap-based scheme. It utilizes unbalanced lines, counter-trap plays and misdirection to try to create advantages in leverage. Alex Collins has been a nice addition to the backfield (averaging over five yards per carry) but his patient style figures to have problems against the Dolphins fifth-ranked run defense.
Few teams close down the backside of the play better than the Dolphins. Baltimore likes to pull tight ends or guards across to the front side of the formation. In doing so, this puts the blitz-happy Dolphins in position to attack the Baltimore run game. Reshad Jones is a menace in that way, but Charles Harris and William Hayes have proven to give these very plays problems this season.
Pass protection has been an issue for Baltimore in 2017. Joe Flacco doesn’t move particularly well and right tackle, Austin Howard, isn’t exactly fleet of foot. He had issues getting outside on Danielle Hunter last week in Minnesota. Cameron Wake poses the same problems Hunter did with a terrific burst and ability to convert speed to power.
The Ravens best opportunity for success on offense is in the screen game. Baltimore wants to stretch teams horizontally with as many slant/flat combos as any team in the league. If Miami can learn from last week’s mistakes against the screen, it’ll be a long day for the Ravens offense.
Dolphins Offense vs. Ravens Defense:
Eric Weddle’s speed and preparation gives the Ravens a lot of flexibility in their pre-snap looks and coverage. He will start in a single-high position the majority of the time, but he has the freedom to rotate coverage. What starts as cover-1 can quickly change to cover-2 or quarters coverage.
The Dolphins offensive success is going to come down to Matt Moore’s ability to throw the ball under pressure. He was up to the task in the Jets game, but the Ravens front seven offers a whole other plate of obstacles.
Miami must win the one-on-one match-ups on the perimeter with Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker (provided he plays – my money says he does not.)
Minnesota’s success in the passing game came on underneath routes. Slants in-which Adam Thielen won inside was the Vikings bread and butter — Stills and Landry are both capable in this capacity. Baltimore wants to challenge routes early, play trail technique, and funnel everything to the rangy safety (Weddle).
In order to run the ball, Miami is going to have to have success with the pass. Baltimore doesn’t hide its desire to send a variety of blitz packages both inside and off the edge. Miami has struggled immensely with stunts, twists and delayed blitzes, so expect a healthy dose of each.
Man coverage is always susceptible to getting beat by rub-routes (pick plays) and that has been a Miami staple under Adam Gase. Expect Damien Williams to get a heavy workload as a pass catcher and extra pass protector.
Brandon Williams is nearly impossible to block. He moves all over the Ravens defensive line, harassing guards and tackles alike. Miami essentially needs to double him throughout the game and hope that Jay Ajayi can make the Baltimore linebackers miss.
The Dolphins have struggled to get a lot of movement in the running game, and that doesn’t figure to change in this game.
A combination of things when Baltimore has the ball lends the advantage to the road team. Miami’s stingy run defense could force the Ravens into third and long situations. Joe Flacco’s lack of mobility, and propensity to make up his mind pre-snap, could cause major problems in the Ravens’ offensive plan.
This game is going to come down to turnovers and special teams. Matt Moore is a gun-slinger in his own right, but he’s a better player and makes better decisions than Flacco. Miami might lose the field position battle, but the defense will get multiple takeaways and pull out a tight win.
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