The Ravens travel to Miami to play one of the AFC’s upstart teams. The Dolphins made a lot of noise this off-season spending plenty of money to acquiring several free agents. So far they’re 3-1 and look to challenge the dominance of the Patriots in the AFC East.
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Meanwhile the Ravens are coming off a bad loss to Buffalo with an offense that is still working things out adjusting to injuries in the receiving corps and an inability to run the football.
Will the Ravens be able to get back on the winning track?
Let’s take a look at some of the important match-ups in today’s game:
Ravens Running Back Ray Rice vs. Dolphins Inside Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe
Over the first four games the Ravens running game has been putrid. For whatever reason the Offensive line has struggled to get any push or open any running lanes for either Rice or Bernard Pierce. That inability to move the football has severely hampered the offense this season. It’s also limited your best playmaker in Rice who had only five touches in last Sunday’s loss. Jim Caldwell needs to fins some plays to get the ball in Rice’s hands, either as a runner or a receiver.
Miami is ranked 10th in the league against the run so the match-up isn’t an easy one. Ellerbe, the former Raven is a big reason why leading his team in tackles (38) and calling out the defense. He’s become a more complete linebacker this season and he’ll be tough to account for this afternoon.
Ravens Nose Tackle Haloti Ngata vs. Dolphins Center Mike Pouncey
The Ravens were run over last week by the Bills rush attack for 203 yards. That simply can’t happen especially with a young Quarterback under center. Dolphins signal caller Ryan Tanehill has shown improvement but he does turn the ball over when pressured and Baltimore would love to keep him in obvious third and long situations.
Stopping the run starts with Ngata who wasn’t very active or effective in Buffalo. He needs to lead the charge against one of the better Centers in the league.
Ravens Outside Linebackers (Elvis Dumervil & Terrell Suggs) vs. Dolphins Offensive Tackles (Tyson Clabo & Jonathan Martin)
Once again the Ravens pass rush tandem of Doom and Sizzle must have a big game. Suggs has played extremely well so far and is on pace for career highs in tackles (124) and sacks (16). Dumervil started strong but has cooled off and doesn’t have sack in the last two games.
Meanwhile Miami has Offensive line problems of its own, in particular protecting the Quarterback in passing situations. They’ve given up 18 sacks, which is worst in the league. This is a match-up that certainly favors the purple and if both players can get home and possible causes some turnovers it will be huge in helping Baltimore gain a victory.
Ravens Cornerback Jimmy Smith vs. Dolphins Wide Receiver Brian Hartline
Most people are concerned about former Steeler Mike Wallace and his breakaway speed. But he’s underachieved so far (15 catches, 176 yds., 1 TD) and hasn’t had many huge games against the Ravens in the past. I’m more interested in keeping Hartline, the team’s leading pass catcher under wraps. He’s not flashy but he’s steady with solid hands and has an ability to move the chains.
Smith continues to make positive strides and put together a solid effort limiting Stevie Johnson last week. According to PPF, the Bills connected only once against Smith in coverage. He’ll need to continue his progress in Miami.
Ravens Offensive Tackle (Bryant McKinnie/Eugene Monroe) vs. Dolphins Defensive End (Cameron Wake/Dion Jordan)
Baltimore made headlines this week acquiring Left Tackle Monroe from Jacksonville which speaks to their disappointment with McKinnie. It’s still unclear if Monroe will get the start due to only being with a team a few days if not then this could be McKinnie’s last start for the Ravens. The success of Joe Flacco during his playoff run was directly linked to an offensive line that was fantastic and physical. It’s not surprising that Flacco’s seven interceptions this season are partly a result of leaky protection and zero run game. It must improve and McKinnie can’t do it then Monroe will be next man up.
Wake, one of the game’s premier pass rushers is currently 50/50 for game time. If he doesn’t play it will be a break for Baltimore but he’ll most likely be matched against Michael Oher on the right side. Jordan was the team’s top draft pick and has been relatively quiet so far.