The Miami Dolphins will travel up to Baltimore to play on a short week. The Dolphins are on a three-game winning streak, while the Ravens are on a two-game skid. In fact, they have lost in four of their last five contests. However, don’t let that fool you. The Ravens have given the Dolphins fits over the past few years. Most recently, Miami was crushed 38-6 in Baltimore after winning six straight games last season.
These two teams have a few things in common. First of all, they have both struggled offensively throughout the season. Miami has picked things up recently with their late-game surges, but their offensive drought was not all that long ago.
It is hard to tell which version of Miami’s offense will show up this Thursday night, especially since backup quarterback Matt Moore will be starting for the Dolphins. He tends to either come in hot— slinging the ball all over the field, or he makes mistakes due to overconfidence and leading to risky throws. More on Moore in a bit.
The second thing that both Miami and Baltimore have in common is the fact that they are both facing a ton of injuries this season. Miami has seen linebackers, defensive backs, receivers, lineman and two quarterbacks struck by injuries this season. Baltimore has had it just as bad. Some notable injuries for both teams leading up to this game include:
Baltimore: Terrell Suggs, Terrance West, Jeremy Maclin, Breshad Perriman, and Mike Wallace
Miami: Jay Cutler, Andre Branch, DeVante Parker, Jordan Phillips, and Laremy Tunsil
The injuries for both teams range in severity. Some players stand a better chance of seeing the field compared to others at this time.
With struggling offenses, key injuries, and a short week, don’t be surprised to see this becoming a low-scoring game. The keys to getting on the scoreboard for both teams are as follows:
Miami: The Ravens have shown vulnerability against the run as they are currently giving up 145 yards on the ground per game, on average. Look for the Dolphins to exploit this by giving tailback Jay Ajayi a heavy dose of carries. Miami’s offense is heavily dependent on the run game. When Ajayi has 18+ carries the Dolphins are 12-0.
Miami has seen fairly conservative play-calling by head coach Adam Gase this season. They are a run-first team and are always looking to set up the play-action. This matchup bodes well for Miami’s philosophy. Ajayi has yet to score on the ground this season so look for this to be the first game where he finds paydirt.
Baltimore: Miami is only yielding 82 yards on the ground per game, on average. So, the Ravens will have to look elsewhere to get on the scoreboard. Miami’s pass defense has shown vulnerability early in games. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke does an excellent job with second-half adjustments, so if the Ravens want to win this game they will have to do it through the air and score early. That way the Dolphins will have to abandon their run game and put the ball in the air.
However, this is easier said than done for the Ravens considering the fact that receivers Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Breshad Perriman are all injured. It will also be tough considering the fact that quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown more interceptions this year (8) than touchdowns (5).
Don’t be surprised to see Baltimore step up defensively for this game. Miami will be starting Matt Moore at quarterback after Jay Cutler injured his chest (out 2-3 weeks) against the Jets last week. This gives the Ravens a chance to take advantage of the quarterback situation. Moore is fresh off a strong game against the Jets, but he will likely regress a bit against Baltimore, especially on the road.
Here are some key defensive metrics for both teams heading into Week 8.
Baltimore: 334 average yards allowed per game. 189 through the air, 145 on the ground. They are giving up 21 points a game, on average. These numbers don’t tell the whole story though, as Baltimore’s offense has been pretty bad, leading to more opportunities for opposing offenses against the Ravens’ defense.
Miami: 308 average yards allowed per game. 222 through the air, 82 on the ground. They are giving up just under 19 points a game, on average. Miami’s defense has allowed them to stay in games and is of the “bend-but-don’t-break” style. Once again, it is important to note that Burke has done an excellent job with second-half adjustments with this unit.
Miami has gone 1-3 against Baltimore over the last four years. Baltimore will look to end Miami’s winning streak for the second year in a row. If the Dolphins want to prove themselves as a contender and not a pretender they will have to show up ready to play on Thursday night.
Gase has done a great job in preparing this team to play despite all sorts of adversity ranging from a hurricane, traveling all over the country in a short span of time to start the season, personnel going AWOL, starters being injured, a coach resigning mid-season, etc. Look for the Dolphins to be ready to go from the opening kickoff in hopes of extending their winning streak to four games.