Ravens (4-9) @ Dolphins (0-13)
This weekend the Ravens (and me!) travel to sunny Miami to take on the winless Miami Dolphins, in what could appropriately be named the “Toilet Bowl” of the 2007 season. These 2 teams have combined to lose their last 23 games! The 0-13 Dolphins also lost their last 3 in ’06, while the Ravens, not satisfied with just setting the new franchise record for consecutive losses, have absolutely obliterated the old record and show no signs of slowing up, losers of 7 straight. Well, something has to give in the humid south Florida air this Sunday.
Rest assured that Dolphins faithful will have no pity on us Ravens fans. It’s now been over a year since the fans of Miami last got to celebrate a victory, when the fish beat the (gasp!) New England Patriots, 21-0 last December 10. Yep, the Pats. Ironically, the two teams competing for perfection at opposite ends of the spectrum in 2007 can each point to the same game in which their respective (regular season) losing/winning streaks began.
The porpoises benched rookie QB John Beck last week, and now turn back to 4th year veteran Cleo Lemon to try to get coach Cam Cameron his first win. Lemon has started 5 games this season, throwing 3 touchdowns to go along with 6 picks, and also having run for 4 scores. He can move around decently, but the Ravens historically don’t have too much trouble wrangling in those running quarterbacks (Just ask Mike Vick-you can reach him c/o United States Prison System). Also, he makes mistakes, having thrown at least 1 interception in 4 of his 6 appearances this year, and 2 INTs twice. If the Ravens depleted secondary, which will be missing Chris McAlister (on IR) and likely Samari Rolle (shoulder) again, can cover somebody, and can catch the ball when it hits them in the hands, it will go a long way to helping them win.
As far as the Dolphins defense, they have suffered greatly from the loss of MLB Zach Thomas, who is out for the season due to migraine headaches. His absence from the middle of their D is a big factor in them being dead last in the league against the run. Surprisingly, though, they are 3rd in the NFL against the pass. Hmmm…A+B=C….RUN THE DAMN BALL! The Ravens seemed to discover their identity as a running team 2 weeks ago against New England, but Willis McGahee wasn’t even able to get started last week, as the Colts built a huge lead quickly and forced the Ravens to pass. As we all have learned throughout the Brian Billick tenure (which WILL extend to next year, in case you hadn’t heard) is that bad, bad things happen when the purple-and-black are forced to throw.
Speaking of throwing, it will be Kyle Boller getting the start this week. As much as some of you clamor to see more of Troy Smith, Boller, barring injury, will continue to be the Ravens starter, as he does give them the best chance to win. Unfortunately, as we have documented here numerous times, Kyle is no “road-warrior.” His record as a starter away from M&T now stands at a dismal 5-14, and 0-2 in ’07. The Ravens need to take the pressure off him by pounding the ball on the ground, and setting up those play-action fakes (because, as he displayed last week, Boller has a tendency to throw the ball to the spot the linebacker was supposed to vacate, whether he actually moved or not.) Cross your fingers that we don’t see Troy Smith in this game, as that will probably only mean either a) Boller got hurt, or b) The ‘phins are spanking us somethin’ awful.
Next week in Seattle may be a different story, but for this week at least, the Ravens have something to play for: They REALLY don’t want to be the answer to the trivia question, “Who is the only team the 2007 Miami Dolphins beat?” As such, they will come out fired up and, hopefully, won’t pack it in at the first sign of adversity. It will be a boring, slow, smash-mouth game, filled with 2 yard runs and 5 yard passes. In short, what we’ve seen all year save for the Pats game. The Dolphins think this is their best chance for a win this year. They’re probably right. But that still won’t matter in the end.
Ravens 20 Dolphins 16 (sorry UnbiasedGuy, predictions are just too much fun)
Note: D.Baby will be traveling to Miami for the game this weekend, so we’ll try to put together a crazy photoblog for the recap next week.