Sunday, October 6, 2013

Four Point Stance: Ravens at Dolphins


The Miami Dolphins face a 2012 playoff team for the third time in four weeks, this time in a home tilt against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

The 2-2 Ravens have had an up-and-down start to their title defense, with all of the down coming on the road. They've lost both of their games away from home, most recently a 23-20 loss at Buffalo in which quarterback Joe Flacco threw five interceptions.

At 3-1, the Dolphins are guaranteed to enter their Week 6 bye with a winning record, but this game represents an important point in determining the trajectory of their season. A win establishes them as a frontrunner in the early AFC Wild Card race going into a lighter stretch of their schedule with head-to-head tiebreakers over three other contenders, while a loss drops them back into conference's crowded middle class heading into the stretch.


Containing Rice. The Dolphins defense has struggled covering backs coming out of the backfield, a weakness that's been exploited more and more each successive week. New Orleans Saints tailback Darren Sproles gashed Miami for 114 receiving yards and a score last game, and Baltimore back Ray Rice can do similar damage unless the defense makes the necessary adjustments.

Opening the offense. Baltimore's secondary is talented but can be exploited if properly spaced out. Miami will need solid efforts from all its receivers and tight ends but also from its quarterback to get playmakers in space, and to create run-after-the-catch opportunities.

Big-play prevention. Wideout Torrey Smith is averaging 20.7 yards per reception this season and is the singular big play threat in the Ravens offense. Preventing Smith from playing gamebreaker should be the number one priority of Miami's secondary, one they should be able to handle.

Pass-pro. Miami's pass protection has been under fire early this season, both on the field and in the media. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is getting sacked at an alarming rate and Ravens edge rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will offer no relief to the Dolphins embattled offensive line. An improved performance from the front five will be necessary if the Dolphins are to win.


Week 5 picks: Ravens at Dolphins

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Wallace: Things not going 'the way I imagined'

AFC East power rankings roundup: Week 5

Sherman not yet ready to give keys to Miller

Saints LB: We 'abused' Dolphins' 'weak' O-line 

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