The Baltimore Ravens come back to Miami this weekend, the site of last years embarrassing loss to the previously winless Miami Dolphins. The Phins would not win another game and the Ravens would not fair much better. The season would end and both teams would hire new coaches. Both teams enter the weekend with 2 wins and 3 losses and while a loss on Sunday does little to secure a fight for a playoff spot or lose one, the game will have consequences on the psyche of the team who does find themselves with the lower score. Both teams are struggling to build and identity on offense while on defense, the Ravens are the best in the league…statistically.
Here are the 5 keys to victory:
Key 5: Stop the Running game. The Ravens running game is ranked 7th in the NFL. The easiest way to defend a good rushing attack is with a good offensive attack of your own. The Dolphins can shut down the Ravens running game by putting points on the board and forcing the Ravens to throw the ball where they are ranked 29th in the league on the arm of rookie QB Joe Flacco. Flacco has thrown 1 touchdown and 7 interceptions. The Dolphins will have to put the game on his shoulders to beat their rushing attack.
Key 4: Short passing game. The Dolphins can ill afford to allow the Ravens to stack the box on defense and concentrate solely on stopping the Dolphins rushing attack. The Phins need to be aware that the Ravens will force the Phins to beat them through the air as well. Short high-percentage passes to the wide-outs and TE will force the LB’s to play back and in turn open up holes for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Chad Pennington should use the short game to move the ball down the field.
Key 3: Time of Possession. The Phins have won the TOP battle 2 times this year and both times they won the ball games. Against the Ravens, TOP will grind out the game clock and force the Ravens into a game situation that they can’t dictate or control while allowing the Phins to control tempo.
Key 2: The offensive line. The Dolphins offensive line must keep the Ravens defensive front in check. They expect blitz schemes and straight up muscle as the Ravens try to attack the Dolphins up-field behind the line of scrimmage. Jake Long had a long day last weekend against Mario Williams. His task this week gets no easier as he faces the number 1 unit in the NFL. A victory in the trenches can seal the deal for the Phins, but it won’t be an easy task by any means.
Key 1: Special teams. The play of the special teams last weekend led to 9 points and that can not happen at this level. There is little room for error even against weaker teams. Baltimore is not a pushover and field position will play a huge roll in the success of either club. Losing yardage to missed tackles and penalties on the ST unit will no help the Phins win this game, and like last weekend, could help lose it for them.
In the Ravens 5 games this season, they have lost 3 in a row. They opened the season beating the Bengals and the Browns who have combined for 1 victory. Their last 3 say 3 point losses to the Steelers and then again to the Titans before being blown out 31 – 3 last weekend against the Colts.
The Dolphins will have to be on top of their game and there is very little room for error. This is a winnable game and the Phins have many of these games on their schedule. Good teams win the games they should, bad teams upset the teams they shouldn’t. So far, the Dolphins have upset teams for their 2 wins. Now it’s time to win because you should and because you can, not because you game plan better.
To see NFL.com’s video preview of the Dolphins week 7 match-up.