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Ravens-Dolphins: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 03 December 2016 by Luke Jones

December football has arrived.

Aiming to return to the postseason for just the second time since Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens will now play three of their next four games against teams with winning records and own the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. In other words, John Harbaugh’s team will have to earn it if an AFC North title is in the cards.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins come to town riding a six-game winning streak in their effort to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2008. First-year head coach Adam Gase has the Dolphins playing winning football despite a 1-4 start, but a plus-9 point differential reflects how close their games have been on a weekly basis all year.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams play for the 12th time in their regular-season history. The Dolphins own a 6-5 advantage, but their only win in Baltimore came at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 19, 1997. This marks the fourth straight year these teams have met, but the previous three were in Miami.

1. Kenneth Dixon will gain a career-high 100 total yards. We’ve gradually seen Dixon cut into starter Terrance West’s workload, but the rookie finished with more touches (17 to 16) and played eight more snaps against Cincinnati last week. The Dolphins rank 30th in rush defense and are allowing 4.6 yards per carry. The Miami front is built to aggressively rush the passer, so offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg should use draws, counters, and screens to exploit that aggressiveness. If the Ravens are to finally get their running game going for the stretch run, Sunday seems like the time to do it.

2. Kenny Stills will catch a long touchdown against the Ravens secondary. Jarvis Landry is the most accomplished Dolphins receiver and 2015 first-round pick DeVante Parker has emerged in recent weeks, but Stills ranks third among qualified players in yards per catch (18.5) and has five touchdowns on throws traveling more than 20 yards through the air. The Ravens are tied for fourth in fewest pass plays of 25 or more yards allowed, but Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when working in a clean pocket this season. That will lead to a score.

3. The team that throws the ball more often will lose on Sunday. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi has earned much praise with back-to-back 200-yard games in October and another 100-yard rushing performance in Week 9, but he’s averaged 3.8 yards per carry in three contests since and will be playing the NFL’s top-ranked run defense. On the other side, Joe Flacco is averaging 40.9 passing attempts per game, but he’s thrown for more than 300 yards twice and has only two contests in which he’s thrown for two or more touchdowns this year. Both teams need to run the ball effectively to thrive.

4. Jimmy Smith will come away with a red-zone interception in the second half. After missing two games with a back injury, the No. 1 cornerback is expected to play. Miami could be without the 6-foot-3 Parker, but Smith’s presence on the field will be key against a passing game ranking eighth in the NFL in yards per attempt (7.8) despite sitting 28th in passing yards per game. Despite playing his best football since the first half of the 2014 season, Smith has yet to secure an interception this season. That will change on Sunday with Tannehill being forced to throw more than usual in the second half.

5. The Ravens win in typical fashion in a 20-17 final to stay in first place in the AFC North. Week after week, we’ve watched an offense incapable of putting together a full 60 minutes — or even anything close to that. I don’t expect that to suddenly change in the final month of the season. However, the Dolphins’ biggest offensive strength is a perfect match for what the Ravens do best. Baltimore will contain Ajayi and rattle Tannehill at the most critical times, Justin Tucker will connect on two field goals, and the Ravens offense will put together one or two good drives. It’s never fancy, but the Ravens couldn’t have asked for much more than a 7-5 record after their season was in great peril a month ago.

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Pressuring Tannehill hidden key for Ravens against Miami

Posted on 01 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The matchup isn’t as imposing, but it’s a familiar one for the Ravens.

Two weeks after facing the best rushing attack in the NFL in a road loss to Dallas, Baltimore welcomes upstart running back Jay Ajayi and Miami to town on Sunday. The Dolphins have won six in a row behind the league’s sixth-ranked run offense and Ajayi’s 5.3 yards per carry, but the Ravens have allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFL this season.

The Cowboys were the better team in that 27-17 final on Nov. 20, but they needed 30 carries to finish with 118 rushing yards, their third-lowest ground total of the season and fewest since Week 2. In other words, there’s little reason to think Ajayi is going to find a ton of running room against a defense that’s surrendered just 3.4 yards per carry, its best mark since 2009.

“That is Raven football,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “You do not want teams to run the ball on you. We take a lot of pride in that. We take a lot of pride in playing defense.”

The biggest key for the Ravens in Sunday’s tilt will likely be their ability to pressure Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is in the midst of arguably his best season and one of the best stretches of his career over the last six weeks. Averaging a career-high 7.82 yards per attempt, Tannehill is completing 66 percent of his passes and has thrown nine touchdowns to just one interception over the last six contests.

The decision by first-year head coach Adam Gase to employ more of a power running attack since Miami’s 1-4 start has led to the emergence of Ajayi as well as a renaissance for Tannehill. Attempting a career-low 29.9 passing attempts per game this season, the 6-foot-4 Texas A&M product has been more efficient and productive than previous seasons.

Tannehill has received Pro Football Focus’ top quarterback grade in two of the last three weeks and has graded as the website’s 10th-best quarterback this season. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees credits Gase for taking pressure off the fifth-year signal-caller and making a more “quarterback-friendly” offense.

“When you’re running the football, you’re setting up the play-action, the quick game, all those kinds of things,” Pees said. “The other thing is you’re not in as many third-and-longs a lot of times as you are if your team is just throwing the ball all the time.

“The guy is a very, very accurate thrower. When he gets out of the pocket and runs with the ball and scrambles with the ball or even on a roll-out or [bootleg], he’s one of the most accurate quarterbacks I’ve seen throwing on the run. He is really, really good.”

Tannehill has especially thrived when working in a clean pocket this season, posting a 115.5 passer rating when not facing pressure. That’s good for fourth in the NFL and just a spot below rookie sensation Dak Prescott of the Cowboys.

Of course, it was Baltimore’s inability to pressure Prescott that led to him throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdown passes in Week 11. The Ravens are tied for 11th in the league with 26 sacks, but their pass rush has been more timely than consistent this season with long stretches of games in which opposing quarterbacks have gone largely untouched.

The Dolphins are hoping to welcome back left tackle Branden Albert and left guard Laremy Tunsil to their starting lineup after missing last week’s game, but Tannehill isn’t afraid to move out of the pocket. And that’s where the Ravens know he can become even more dangerous with the respectable trio of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills catching passes.

“Tannehill’s not making mistakes and is throwing the ball all over the place off the play-action,” safety Eric Weddle said. “He’s getting his feet out and extends plays, which kills the defense. And he’s extending [plays] to throw.”

The expected return of top cornerback Jimmy Smith should help a secondary that’s played remarkably well despite the lack of a consistent pass rush for much of the year. Five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil will also be playing in his second straight game after coming up with the game-saving strip-sack against Cincinnati last week in his first action since early October.

The Ravens figure to be able to contain Ajayi and force the Dolphins into more throws than they’d prefer, but Pees and the defense need to be aggressive against Tannehill and cannot allow him to get comfortable behind his offensive line on Sunday. And that’s where Dumervil and Suggs have spoken openly this week about needing a raucous crowd at M&T Bank Stadium to make life even more difficult for the Miami quarterback.

The Ravens believe the loud closing minutes of Sunday’s game against Cincinnati helped lead to four batted passes and the strip-sack to preserve the victory. They want more noise against the Dolphins.

“It limits the checks. It eliminates a lot of the things the quarterback can do at the line of scrimmage,” Dumervil said. “That’s what happened toward the last series. They had to go with the plays. Once the guys on defense are locked and ready, we’re all moving at the same ball. That’s when we feel the crowd advantage. We need that 12th man stronger than ever this week.”

The Ravens need their pass rush to be right there with the fans in a game they need to win.

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Coaches beware: pictured is one of the ultimate coach killers  - Matty Melting Ice Ryan

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NFL Quarterbacks who are “Coach Killers”

Posted on 13 August 2016 by Dennis Koulatsos

Coaches beware: pictured is one of the ultimate coach killers - Matty Melting Ice Ryan

Coaches beware: pictured is one of the ultimate coach killers – Matty Melting Ice Ryan

There are a handful of NFL quarterbacks that seem to have all the physical tools to get the job done, but for some reason have never put it all together.  They look like a duck, walk like a duck, even quack like a duck – but they just can’t swim.  More often than not they sink straight to the bottom, and in most cases they’ve cost their coach and his coaching staff their jobs while they get to keep their’s.

QBs that quickly come to mind are Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill, and Jay Cutler.  They’re in a league of their own.  There is a second tier of QBs that includes Andy Dalton, Tony Romo, and Sam Bradford.  RGIII may eventually get in to this second tier, but then again he is attempting to jump start his career at the Factory of Sadness known as the Cleveland Browns.  I don’t know if any QB could be successful in that awful organization.

Let’s take a little closer look at all of the aforementioned QBs. Matthew Stafford has been through numerous head coaches.  He’s been handed several #1 overall draft pick wide receivers, decent offensive lines, and a plethora of other offensive weapons.  Heck, even Megatron – Calvin Johnson – had enough and decided to walk away from the game during this past off-season.  Blessed with a gun for an arm, there are times that he can’t hit water falling out of a boat.  I’ve never been able to put my finger on it, but there’s definitely something wrong with this guy.

Matt Ryan is another one.  Fortunately for Joe Flacco, the comparisons between the two stopped right after Big Joe won a Super Bowl.  Just look at the weapons he’s had – Tony Gonzales, Julio Jones, Roddy White – just to name a few. If not for an ill-advised time out by the Seahawk’s Pete Carroll, Matty Melting Ice would still be looking for his first playoff win. The clock is ticking on Ryan’s career, and he is running out of time to prove his growing critics wrong.

Jay Cutler has a habit of throwing the ball to defensive backs and oftentimes in bunches.  Jumping Jay has also been surrounded with weapons, who all – to a man – have lots of uncomplimentary things to say about him once they’ve escaped Chicago.  If I was coaching Da Bears, I’d put this cat on a pitch count, and never have him throw more than 20 times a game.  In fact, I’d bring back Ted Marchibroda’s offense from the 80’s – run, run, pass, punt.  You laugh, but it’s superior to pass, pass, pick, play defense.

Ryan Tannehill is a coach killer in training.  He is still young on the job curve, but I’ve seen nothing from him to indicate that he’ll ever develop into a an NFL QB worthy of his draft position and his huge new contract.  Selfishly I really like him, because as long as he is under center, we’ll all be able to easily obtain discounted tickets to Dolphins home games.  It’s always a great trip to Miami in the winter, and Ravens fans do a great job of taking over the stadium (cue the Ravens Seven Nation Army chant).

Which brings us to Dalton, Bradford and Romo.  The first two have won exactly the same number of NFL playoff games as you and I,  and the last one has a knack for throwing an interception at the absolute worst possible time. There are throwers and there are field generals, and all 3 of these gentlemen most definitely fit in the former category.

By the virtue of his dismal playoff record, Dalton used to have a monkey on his back.  Now that monkey has grown into an 800-pound gorilla, one that he cannot shake off until he gets that elusive first playoff win. It is inexplicable – and at the same time defies logic – that he has a future Hall of Fame receiver like AJ Green and can’t hit him when it counts.  Coach Marvin Lewis is extremely lucky he gets to work for one of the cheapest owners in the NFL, or he would have been gone a long time ago.

Bradford’s career has been marred by injuries, but even when healthy he has not shown that he is anywhere in the elite category.  Somehow Jeff Fisher (6 playoff wins in 22 years – but that’s going to require an entire separate article dedicated to his record) survived Bradford’s tenure with the Rams, and hopefully his Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson can do the same.  Pederson was smart enough to draft an insurance policy in the form of Carson Wentz.

Tony Romo “led” the Cowboys to a 12-4 record two years ago.  The Pokes saved Romo from himself by running DeMarco Murray into the ground, 400 plus times.  By drafting Ezekiel Elliott and signing free agent running back Alfred Morris, they’re hoping the same formula works as well as it did in the past.  Of course that will cause Dez Bryant to squawk, but then again if he didn’t then they would be the Dallas Cowboys.  ‘Merica’s Team.

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Loss in Miami reminds Ravens just how much Flacco missed

Posted on 06 December 2015 by Luke Jones

There isn’t much worth remembering when looking back at the Ravens’ 15-13 loss to Miami on Sunday.

Rookie wide receiver Daniel Brown fell victim to one of the worst offensive pass interference calls you’ll ever see, but that was barely a drop in an ocean of poor officiating around the NFL in 2015. It’s a problem the league desperately needs to address in the offseason if it cares about maintaining any semblance of integrity with players, coaches, and fans.

But even after the baffling call that wiped out a 52-yard touchdown pass, the Ravens still had 50 minutes to overcome the misfortune that occurred when the game was still scoreless in the first quarter.

On the positive side, rookie Buck Allen continues to look like he’s more than capable of being a No. 1 running back after collecting 170 total yards and 12 receptions, one shy of the franchise’s single-game record for catches. The 2015 fourth-round pick has become the Ravens’ best offensive option — which admittedly isn’t saying much with the current group of weapons — and is doing everything he can to spark an interesting discussion about the future of veteran Justin Forsett in the offseason.

Beyond that, Sunday’s slop-fest between two bad teams only brought a reminder of just how much the Ravens and their fans should appreciate Joe Flacco when he returns to the field next season. As lousy as Miami’s fourth-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill was for the better part of 60 minutes, his turnover-free performance was preferable to the 30 seconds from hell turned in by Matt Schaub late in the first half that turned out to be the difference in the game.

Two interceptions — one serving as a catalyst for a 38-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker and the other returned for a touchdown — and 15 points, which were all the Dolphins needed against an undermanned Baltimore offense. Those turnovers overshadowed what was a strong performance by a Ravens defense that has steadily improved against a pedestrian group of opponents over the last month.

Sunday brought final confirmation that the concerns expressed by “amateur evaluators” about Schaub throughout training camp were more than fair. The longtime Houston Texans quarterback just can’t shake the nightmare that began in his final season as a starter in 2013.

The Ravens simply cannot expect to win with the 34-year-old quarterback at the helm. And how could he do it with such a depleted group of weapons around him? His wide receivers on Sunday would be no better than No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 options at best on most teams, and starting tight end Crockett Gillmore became the latest offensive weapon to go down when he left the game with a back injury.

Last week’s win in Cleveland came thanks to two special-teams touchdowns that made up for an interception returned for a touchdown and another ugly pick thrown in the final minute. On Sunday, there was no hiding Schaub’s inability to protect the football.

The Ravens may not have been winning much with Flacco in 2015 — he admittedly wasn’t playing his best football — but the last two weeks have offered a reminder to anyone ever trying to undersell just how important the eighth-year quarterback is to Baltimore’s success. Regardless of where he ranks among NFL quarterbacks, Flacco has proven that he can win you a championship with a good group of weapons around him.

That’s more that you can say about Schaub or Tannehill after watching both quarterbacks flounder on Sunday.

There isn’t much else to say about the 4-8 Ravens, who have now clinched just the second non-winning season of the John Harbaugh era. Another week and another game decided by a single score, but we again watched a team not good enough to overcome back-breaking turnovers, untimely penalties, poor officiating, and a plethora of injuries that have decimated the roster.

You can pick apart the minutia of another loss as much as you’d like, but nothing else really matters when you don’t have a quarterback.

Fortunately, it’s only temporary pain for the Ravens, but it’s a reminder of where this franchise stood for years when it squandered a number of championship-caliber defenses as the likes of Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright tried to play quarterback before Flacco finally came along in 2008.

It’s unlikely to be a fun final quarter of the season with the Ravens facing four teams with winning records and firmly in the race for postseason spots.

So, as you brace yourself and try to take consolation in knowing that losses like Sunday’s only improve their 2016 draft position, just remind yourself how good the Ravens have had it for so long with Flacco at the helm.

And try to erase the memory of Schaub’s ugly interceptions as much as you can.

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Ravens-Dolphins: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 05 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Identical records, but two teams seemingly going in opposite directions.

Standing at 4-7, the Ravens only have a microscopic chance of making the playoffs, but they’ve continued to fight under eighth-year head coach John Harbaugh, winning three of their last four games with a roster that’s been completely ravaged by injuries. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins have already fired their head coach and both coordinators this season and have lost four of their last five with all coming by multiple scores.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore and Miami meet for the 11th time in the all-time regular-season series with the teams currently tied 5-5. The Ravens are 3-4 at Sun Life Stadium — 5-4 counting the postseason — but they will try to win in Miami for the third straight year.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their third consecutive game …

1. Miami will attempt to commit to the run, but the Ravens won’t allow that to happen. After running the ball just nine times against the New York Jets last week, interim head coach Dan Campbell fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and new play-caller Zac Taylor vowed to get the ground game going. That will be easier said than done against a Ravens defense that ranks eighth against the run and has allowed just 3.7 yards per carry this season. Lamar Miller is a solid back, but Brandon Williams and his defensive line mates will swallow up the Dolphins’ ground attack, forcing them to throw the ball more that they would would like as the game progresses. Miami will only rush for 70 yards on the day.

2. Buck Allen and Terrance West will combine to rush for 130 yards. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has drawn criticism for his lack of commitment to running the ball, but there is no reason not to stay on the ground against the league’s 32nd-ranked rush defense. Matt Schaub showed against Cleveland that he can make some plays with his arm here and there, but you want to limit his opportunities to make game-changing mistakes, something the Ravens will do on Sunday. Allen and West combined to carry 19 times for 92 yards against the Browns, but they’ll receive more extensive opportunities in an effort to wear down the Miami front in the heat and potential rain.

3. Jarvis Landry will shine for the Dolphins, but DeVante Parker and Jordan Cameron will catch touchdown passes. In his second year out of LSU, Landry is Miami’s best offensive player and will give the Ravens fits with his ability to gain yards after the catch on his way to a 100-yard day. However, the Dolphins will be without starting receiver Rishard Matthews and will need more from Parker, who has just eight catches in nine games after being selected 14th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. The rookie will shake free for a score. Though Cameron has disappointed with his new team, the Ravens have struggled against tight ends this season and he’ll catch a touchdown inside the red zone.

4. Elvis Dumervil will collect two sacks to once again torment Ryan Tannehill. The Baltimore defense has collected a combined 12 sacks in the last two trips to Miami, and the Dolphins will be without right tackle Ja’Wuan James on Sunday. Dumervil’s six sacks in 2015 don’t tell the story of how well he’s played needing to step into a full-time role with Terrell Suggs suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in the opener. Instead of matching Dumervil against left tackle Branden Albert all day, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will pick his spots to line up the 31-year-old pass rusher on the opposite side against Jason Fox. He’ll take advantage by picking up two sacks and pressuring Tannehill all day.

5. The Ravens will show they have more under the hood than Miami in a 26-17 win. The Dolphins have more talent than this current version of Harbaugh’s team, but they have mailed it in too many times in a disappointing season, something you can’t say about the Ravens with all 11 of their games decided by one score. One factor to remember is that Baltimore is on the road again after a Monday night road game, making a slow start a distinct possibility. For the first time all season, the Ravens will play a game decided by more than one score and will come out on the winning end, which will say even more about the Dolphins’ ineptitude than Baltimore’s intestinal fortitude.

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Ravens-Dolphins: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 06 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Critical.

No word better describes what’s at stake as the Ravens travel to Sun Life Stadium to take on the Miami Dolphins.

The winner of Sunday’s game isn’t guaranteed a playoff spot in a crowded AFC wild-card picture, but losing in Miami would be a critical blow to either team. After the Ravens lost to the current No. 5 seed San Diego last Sunday, they can hardly afford to be on the wrong end of another head-to-head tiebreaker should they lose to the Dolphins.

In addition to having the NFL’s 31st-ranked pass defense, the Ravens took a major blow up front with Thursday’s announcement of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being suspended for the remainder of the regular season due to a performance-enhancing drug violation. It’s just the latest trial for a 7-5 Ravens team that’s faced much adversity on and off the field.

Sunday will mark the 10th time these AFC teams have played in the regular season with the Dolphins holding a 5-4 edge and a 4-2 record in Miami. However, the Ravens are 4-0 against the Dolphins in the John Harbaugh era, which includes a 27-9 wild-card round win at the end of the 2008 season.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 8-5 in their quest to return to the playoffs …

Who will win Sunday's game in Miami?

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1. Miami defensive end Cameron Wake will pick up a sack, but Rick Wagner will hold his own against the talented pass rusher. The second-year right tackle will face one of his biggest challenges of the season in trying to hold his own against the three-time Pro Bowl selection, but Wagner shouldn’t be counted out as he is the highest-graded pass-blocking — and highest-graded overall — right tackle in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. Miami possesses a formidable pass rush, but the Ravens have held up very well in pass protection this year with quarterback Joe Flacco only being sacked 15 times. They’ll need another strong performance Sunday, and it will start with Wagner on the right side.

2. Justin Forsett will not run for 100 yards, but the Ravens will still gain 150 on the ground against the Dolphins defense. The 29-year-old and the team have downplayed the significance of his knee injury, but it has to be a concern that his limited participation in Friday’s practice was his only on-field work of the week. The good news is the Dolphins’ run defense has dropped to 21st in the NFL and has given up 478 yards on the ground in the last two games against Denver and the New York Jets. We’ll see more of a committee approach than the Ravens have used in weeks as backups Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro will pick up some slack, but Forsett will still finish as the leading rusher on Sunday.

3. Dolphins slot receiver Jarvis Landry will catch a touchdown and lead his team in receiving yards on Sunday. The Ravens hope the return of cornerback Asa Jackson will help a struggling secondary, but Miami has too many weapons in the passing game to not be concerned. We’ll see Jackson line up inside in the nickel package, but he won’t have much luck slowing Landry, who has been very impressive in his rookie season with 57 catches for 518 yards and five touchdowns. Ryan Tannehill will try to get rid of the ball quickly in the face of an imposing Baltimore pass rush, which means quick outs and slants to Landry will be in order throughout the day and he’ll be the go-to target for Miami.

4. Jacoby Jones returns a kick deep into Miami territory to swing the momentum of the game in the second half. There’s no disputing how disappointing this year has been for the wide receiver and return specialist, but you hope Week 13 was a preview of bigger things to come down the stretch for Jones. His two catches for 35 yards as a receiver were nice, but his 72-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter set the Ravens up at the San Diego 30 before the offense had to settle for a field goal. Miami ranks 28th in the NFL in kick return coverage and 24th in punt return coverage, which should have Jones and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg licking their chops. A big return will set up a touchdown in the second half.

5. On a day when both quarterbacks have strong days, the Ravens find a way to secure their biggest win of the season in a 24-20 final. It’s tough to get a read on this one considering how up and down both teams have been throughout the year. You wonder if the Ravens will get off the mat after a tough loss to the Chargers and the suspension of Ngata while the Dolphins aren’t experienced in these kinds of high-stakes games. Flacco and Tannehill will both throw for over 200 yards, but the Dolphins are coming off a short week following a Monday night road win and that run defense is already wearing down significantly. That will be the difference as the Ravens pick up a crucial win in keeping their playoff hopes alive.

 

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Dolphins

Posted on 08 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 26-23 win over the Miami Dolphins Sunday at SunLife Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Haloti Ngata/Josh Bynes tackle Lamar Miller for no gain on 3rd & 1 (1st quarter)

4. Torrey Smith 22 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 10 (3rd quarter)

3. Tandon Doss catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 2 (4th quarter)

2. Joe Flacco 14 yard run on 3rd & 5 (3rd quarter)

1. Elvis Dumervil sacks Ryan Tannehill at Ravens’ 39 (4th quarter)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens-Dolphins: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 05 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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The Ravens face a tough road challenge to avoid falling below the .500 mark for the first time since the 2008 season when they take on the 3-1 Miami Dolphins Sunday afternoon.

Much discussion this week centered around the surprising acquisition of Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe for two draft picks, but it’s difficult to argue with general manager Ozzie Newsome’s desire to shake up an offensive line behind which the Ravens are averaging only 2.6 yards per carry. It remains unclear how big of a role Monroe could serve against the Dolphins after just two days of practice and little time to absorb the Baltimore playbook.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins are overcoming a humbling 38-17 defeat at the hands of undefeated New Orleans on Monday night, but Miami’s front seven will pose a challenge to an offensive line struggling to open running lanes and to hold up consistently in pass protection.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet for the ninth time in regular-season history with the Dolphins holding a 5-3 edge. However, Baltimore is 2-0 in postseason meetings with both games being played in Miami. The Ravens are 1-4 in the regular season at Sun Life Stadium after winning the last regular-season game played in Miami in 2008 and also won the last overall meeting between these teams, a 26-10 final at M&T Bank Stadium in 2010.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens continue to look for their first road win of the season …

1. Bryant McKinnie will receive the start at left tackle, but Monroe will factor into the game in some capacity. Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens would love Monroe to be ready to play against a talented front that could include the returning Cameron Wake at defensive end, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine the fifth-year tackle being comfortable enough to play. The Ravens are in a tough spot weighing whether to play an understandably-disenchanted McKinnie, who knows he will be losing his job sooner rather than later, or an underprepared Monroe. My guess is McKinnie receives the nod, but Monroe will be active to serve as a tackle-eligible blocker in the jumbo package — blocking tight end Billy Bajema was also released earlier this week — and could spell McKinnie if his performance isn’t up to par against the Dolphins.

2. Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace will test the Ravens secondary deep and catch a long touchdown pass. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is questionable for Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury but is expected to play, so Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman should test the Ravens’ top defensive back early and often. Miami has been criticized for being too conservative in its offensive approach with a young quarterback this season, but the Dolphins will be aggressive at home as Wallace catches a long touchdown. Wallace is only averaging 4.4 receptions and 60.9 receiving yards per game in seven regular-season contests against the Ravens, but his speed will burn what’s been a vulnerable secondary for the second touchdown of his Dolphins career.

3. Running back Ray Rice will crack 100 total yards in a game for the first time this season. The Ravens’ rushing game has been so bad that it’s unlikely to expect much success against the league’s 10th-ranked run defense, but offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell should have been paying attention to the way Saints running back Darren Sproles exploited the Miami pass defense for 114 receiving yards and a touchdown last Monday. Rice isn’t a carbon copy of the speedy Sproles, but the Ravens must find ways to get him the football in open space as a receiver if the running game continues to be such a non-factor. The Ravens will feature a stronger commitment to the running game — you can’t get much worse than last week’s nine attempts — but Rice will be rediscovered by quarterback Joe Flacco in the passing game, giving Dolphins linebackers problems and Rice his first productive game of the season.

4. Linebacker Terrell Suggs will continue his early-season sack streak with 1 1/2, which will include a forced fumble against Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The key to crippling a Dolphins offense that has some talent at the skill positions is to pressure the second-year signal caller, who hasn’t handled the heat very well this season. Tannehill has been sacked 18 times and has fumbled six times this season, losing three of them. The strength of the Baltimore defense is its front seven that has collected 13 sacks in four games to help what’s been an inconsistent secondary. With the Ravens struggling so much offensively, they would benefit greatly from a takeaway or two by the defense to set them up on a short field. Suggs is off to a great start in 2013 and continues his streak of having a sack in each game with a strip of Tannehill to set the Ravens up deep in Miami territory.

5. In a game that looks like a coin flip, quarterback Joe Flacco and the defense bounce back in a 21-20 Ravens win. There’s not a lot to like about the Ravens playing away from M&T Bank Stadium right now, but Flacco will not allow a five-interception performance in Buffalo last week to affect him. The potential availability of wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Deonte Thompson would bring some much-needed speed to complement Torrey Smith in the passing game, but the offense will once again hope to simply be efficient on third down as it was in the second half in wins against Cleveland and Houston. I’ll buy stock in Flacco and the Baltimore defense to rebound with strong performances and Rice to reappear to provide just enough to take away a narrow win over the Dolphins to improve to 3-2 on the season.

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