The Miami Dolphins will return home to host the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at 1 PM. Miami will enter the game coming off a 38-17 loss on Monday Night Football to the New Orleans Saints. Baltimore, on the other hand, is entering Miami coming off a 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Needless to say, both teams will be looking to bounce back this week.
Miami is one of the surprises of the young season; The same can be said for Baltimore. Miami is standing pat at a 3-1 record defeating two potential play-off teams in the process. Baltimore, on the other hand, is standing at a 2-2 record with wins over the Houston Texans, whom were a play-off team one year ago, and a 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns.
With both teams looking to rebound, let’s take a look at what Miami must do to ensure a victory when the clock hits double zeros:
— First and foremost, Miami needs to do a better job taking care of the football, QB Ryan Tannehill specifically. Tannehill has fumbled the ball 6 times this season and has thrown 5 interceptions. While we can find some truth to the “not all of Tannehill’s turnovers are his fault” argument, Tannehill needs to take better care of the football for this offense to succeed. Tannehill is not the only one to blame here, however. A large toll of those turnovers are due in part to receivers, particularly Mike Wallace, not fighting for the football or finishing his route and the offensive line playing just absolutely terrible. Miami has surrendered a league high 18 sacks through four games. Baltimore’s front has to be licking their shops just after looking at that statistic. OT’s Jon Martin and Tyson Clabo will have their hands full this week fending off rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Baltimore was able to force 4 fumbles last week against Buffalo, therefore if Miami wants any chance of winning this game, ball security and prime decision making are a must.
—Secondly, the team needs to feed WR Mike Wallace early and often. Wallace has yet to live up to his hefty pay-day he received this off-season. Wallace currently has 15 receptions for 176 yards and 1 touchdown on the season. Those aren’t exactly statistics that a #1 receiver should be posting. Hell, Miami’s “#2” receiver, Brian Hartline, has 94 more yards than Wallace thus far. OC Mike Sherman and QB Ryan Tannehill must do their best to feed Wallace early and often during this game to get Wallace’s confidence up. Come right out of the gate and run a play-action pass and look for Wallace deep. So what if the ball is over-thrown, at least you took a shot. We have yet to see Miami’s offense really utilize Wallace’s speed in terms of “the long ball”. And when will Sherman realize he can move his receivers around? Brandon Gibson, Wallace and Hartline all have experience in the slot and on the outside. Just saying.
—Surprise here (just kidding), make QB Joe Flacco beat you. No Ravens fans, I am not saying Flacco cannot win this game with his arm (well, I kind of am…). I’m just saying that it is not very likely. WR Jacoby Jones may return to action this week, which will help this offense a bit. But Jones is not a very good #2 receiver. He’s a high-end 3 at best. Back to Flacco, what did Buffalo do last week? They completely shut down Baltimore’s run game and forced Flacco to beat them with his arm. The result? A 23-20 loss in which Flacco tossed 5 interceptions including one on the team’s final drive during the final minutes of the game. DT Paul Soliai‘s return to the line-up completely changed Miami’s run defense last week against New Orleans. Not to mention RB Ray Rice has been injured and has not been the same Ray Rice we are used to seeing. If Miami’s defense can force Baltimore’s hand, I like the team’s chances.
—For the fiftieth week in a row, pressure the opposing team’s quarterback. I’ve been saying it for weeks now, this defensive front is capable of a 8-10 sack game. The athleticism across the board is just unreal. But the team has not been able to generate much of a pass rush. Miami should receive a boost with DE Cameron Wake likely playing – he should at least see some snaps in pass rushing situations. DE’s Dion Jordan and Olivier Vernon should be able to utilize their speed to get past OT’s Bryant McKinnie – possibly Eugene Monroe, but we’ll see – and Michael Oher. DC Kevin Coyle needs to cut the, “Oh it’s third and long so let’s drop 8 and rush 3”, shit. Time to dial it up against a mistake prone Joe Flacco and cause some havoc.
—Lastly, for the love of god Mike Sherman RUN THE DAMN FOOTBALL. Against New Orleans we saw a glimpse of what this offense could be capable of with a dominant run game. RB Lamar Miller looked fast, explosive and all around better than any other running back Miami currently has on it’s roster. Sherman needs to get Miller the football early and often. The Ravens are ranked 17th against the run allowing 106 yards per game. There’s absolutely no reason Miami’s offensive line should not be able to rough up Baltimore’s front and allow Miller to bust a few long ones.
Miami has a great shot at winning this football game and heading into their bye week with a 4-1 record that absolutely nobody out there could have predicted – if you tell me otherwise I’ll laugh at you.
Baltimore – 17 Miami – 27
Last week Baltimore showed signs of weakness against a weak Buffalo team. Baltimore completely handed Buffalo the game last week. Sure Baltimore threw 5 interceptions, but the team was able to force Buffalo to fumble four times. Although Miami is clearly the younger and less experienced squad here, I see Baltimore’s team too flawed particularly in the defensive secondary to keep up with Mike Sherman’s offense. If Miami get’s OW Marcus Thigpen involved, look out.