The Miami Dolphins need to put history in the past where it belongs but will the Ravens do the same? They may use last year's debacle as motivation.
The Ravens remember last year, probably more than the Miami Dolphins do. The Ravens were running away with the game before Miami stormed back to win. Miami scored 28 points to the Ravens 3 in the 4th quarter to win 42-38 in Baltimore.
Throughout NFL history, there has never really been a rivalry between the Dolphins and Ravens but they share a history that makes these games more meaningful than other out of division or conference games.
Baltimore was where Don Shula started his coaching career. Miami stole him from the Colts. The Colts were in the AFC East before leaving for the South. The Ravens were once the Browns, a team that Don Shula once played for. It all comes back around in some way.
None of that matters now of course, except maybe the comeback last year. The Ravens fans haven't forgotten. The Dolphins do, however, have to avoid their historical missteps against the Ravens.
Miami has won the last two games against the Ravens after losing three in a row. During that stretch, they have been blown out 59-10, 40-0, and 38-6. Last year they were being beaten 45-21 before the comeback.
Miami has a lot on the line this week. A win secures the AFC East and avoids a showdown with the Bills in week 18 for the division title. The Bills game will be important regardless of the outcome this Sunday. A win over Baltimore puts the Dolphins in position to secure the top seed in the AFC with a win over the Bills.
The Dolphins have to be physical, especially up front in the trenches, on both sides of the ball. The Ravens have one of the best defensive fronts in football and while the Dolphins have played well against some of the best this season, it is a one game at a time mentality. Those previous games don't matter.
Tua Tagovailoa's quick release will help keep the Ravens' defenders from collapsing the pocket. He still needs to be diligent with the ball because the Ravens are good at creating turnovers. Tua has to be nearly perfect.
The bigger question on offense is can the Dolphins consistently run the football against the Ravens' defense? Last week they didn't stop Christian McCaffrey but they held him in check. Miami has to control the front of the line to create running lanes. Do that and they create passing lanes as well.
Defensively, the Dolphins have to keep the game in front of them, more specifically, Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have a top rushing offense but a lot of that comes on the legs of Jackson. Take him out of the game and keep him in the pocket, there is a better chance to control the flow.
A quick start on both sides of the ball will bode well for the Dolphins. Miami can't afford to play from behind the entire game. It's more important to get a lead and make the Ravens play out of their comfort zones.
The media is predicting a big win by the Ravens on Sunday and if we are being honest, I wouldn't bet against them but the Dolphins are not the carpet that some in the media make them out to be. This week, there is no question that if they can beat the Ravens in Baltimore, the narrative will change.
For the Dolphins, they had goals this season, one was to make the playoffs but that wasn't the main goal. Winning the division, advancing in the playoffs beyond round one, and maybe even a first-round bye, are more likely what they wanted to accomplish without saying Super Bowl. This week, they take a big step toward doing so.