Ravens (2-3) @ Dolphins (2-3)
Remember the last time the Ravens visited south Florida? I do, since I had the privilege of watching the Ravens lose to an 0-13 team in person. The events of that December afternoon, while seeming just depressing and enraging at the time, ended up having a pretty profound effect on the team that we are now watching. Lets follow the bouncing ball, shall we?
It is pretty generally accepted around B’More that that was the game that ultimately cost Brian Billick his job. His ridiculously tiny-marbled decision to kick a field goal from the 6-inch line as time expired to tie the game, rather than going for the win, coupled with a Matt Stover miss in overtime (a rarity at the time), were the last straws. Because of that loss, John Harbaugh is now the Head Coach of the Ravens. That Dolphins team, as I’m sure you’ll remember, featured Cam Cameron as their head coach. Cameron, of course, is the Ravens current Offensive Coordinator. He was fired after his only season at the helm in Miami, a 1-15 campaign. His ONE victory last season opened the door for him to land his current job. If he’d have managed the ultimate disaster, an 0-16 record, he’d certainly have landed on his feet somewhere else…but not in Baltimore, where Brian Billick would still be the coach.
Anyway, on to the game. John Harbaugh made his first big gaffe of his head coaching career this week, when he gave the Dolphins some bulletin board material. Referring to Cameron’s efforts last season, John said that Cam performed admirably, “considering what he had to work with.” Current Dolphins players who were also on the team last year were none too flattered by the comment, and the team and their fan base will enter Sunday with just a tad more hate for the purple-and-black. We don’t really buy into that kind of stuff around here at the Nest – the players shouldn’t need any extra motivation to play hard – but John will probably choose his words more carefully next time, nonetheless.
The Dolphins have been having a great deal of success with their new “wildcat” offense, in which running back Ronnie Brown takes a direct snap from center. They have shown several wrinkles in the scheme so far, generating huge plays both on the ground and through the air. Rex Ryan’s defense (still ranked #1 across the board, even after that debacle in Indy) will need to be disciplined and alert. They may get CB Fabian Washington back, but his status is still up in the air. On the bright side, when Dolphins QB Chad Pennington splits out to one side, maybe Frank Walker will finally be lined up against someone he can cover.
Here is a ridiculous piece of information for ya: See up there where it says the Ravens are the 25th ranked offense in the NFL. Well, as dismal as that sounds, it is still FIRST IN THE AFC NORTH. Seriously. The Steelers are 26th, the Browns 28th, and the Bengals 32nd. At least we’re all ugly together, right?
The Dolphins are 10th in the league with 13 sacks, and our old
shitstain friend Joey Porter has been leading the charge, racking up 6.5. The Ravens will need to do a much better job of protecting Joe Flacco, who was sacked like 5 times last week in Indy, and that will be easier said than done, especially with the loss of guard Marshal Yanda for the season with an exploded knee (he tore 3 ligaments, but should be ready for OTAs, reportedly). Chris Chester may fill in for him at times, but the Ravens are hoping that Adam Terry will recover from his injury in time for the game, in which case he would play guard and Willie Anderson right tackle.
Cam Cameron has been assuring the media that the Ravens have been THIS CLOSE to hitting on big plays over the last couple games, but are just barely missing. We’ll believe that when we actually see one hit, Cam.
The Dolphins strength on defense is stopping the run and getting to the passer. When QBs have time to throw, they are able to light up the ‘Fins questionable secondary. Sounds like a great time for Flacco to bust out of this rut he has been in of late, but again, it will all come down to giving him time in the pocket. Flacco trying to make a play when flushed out has all Ravens fans holding our breath at this point. Also working against us is that Demetrius Williams will likely be a game-time decision.
The Ravens will need to get their running game going….
You know what? Screw it.
Trying to use the stats to break this one down is probably futile, because these have been 2 of the most schizophrenic teams in the NFL so far in 2008. Who are the Dolphins? The team that smashed the Patriots in Foxboro 38-13, then beat the other AFC Championship Game contestant from 2007, the San Diego Chargers, 17-10? Or the team that lost to the winless Houston Texans last week?
Likewise, who are the Ravens? The team that lost by a field goal each to two of the best teams in the AFC? Or the team that got humiliated by Peyton & Co. last week?
Another item of note is Terrell Suggs’ slightly disturbing comments from earlier in the week, when he basically said (and we’ll paraphrase) that if the Ravens lose this one then they may just have to tank the rest of the season. Terrific.
So, we’re going to go ahead and show some blind faith in our team this week. The offense will finally click (maybe not on all cylinders, but at least on some of them), and Rex’s defense will expose the Miami gimmick crap for the “pussy”cat system it really is. The Ravens avenge last year’s loss in the big orange and teal bowl.
Ravens 20 Dolphins 13