Baltimore Ravens (4-9) at Miami Dolphins (0-13)
With all this talk about quarterbacks, coaches, free agents, and the draft, I think we've all forgotten that there's a game to play on Sunday. Sure the Dolphins stink, but the game is what it's all about. So let's take our first look at Sunday's game.
Now this Ravens' defense isn't your typical Ravens' defense. Sure, they are ranked 5th in the NFL is total defense. But they are also ranked 24th in scoring defense, allowing 24 points per game. And over their last 5 games, this Baltimore defense is allowing just under 340 yards per game to their opponent.
They key, though, to moving the ball on this Ravens' defense is by throwing the ball. Baltimore's rush defense is ranked 3rd in the NFL, averaging just 77 yards allowed per game. And over their last 5, despite allowing a ton of yards, they still are only surrendering 82 per game on the ground. That means Jesse Chatman (if healthy) and/or Samkon Gado are going to have a very hard time finding running room against this defense. And considering the Dolphins have hit a wall in the running game, only gaining 2.9 yards per carry over their last 5 games, it's safe to say that the Dolphins will have to throw the ball early and often if they want to have any kind of success on offense.
So how in the world can we expect to score any points when we'll have to primarily be a passing team to win? One reason is that the Ravens are just 21st in pass defense, allowing 219 yards per game. And in their last 5, they are allowing 265 yards through the air. Coincidentally, the Ravens are 0-5 in that span. The other reason the Dolphins might be able to actually throw on Baltimore is because they will likely be without both starting corners, Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle. McAlister has been placed on the IR and Rolle's status is very uncertain.
This means Baltimore is down to Corey Ivy, Derrick Martin, and David Pittman as their top 3 corners. Now I'll be honest, I don't know much of anything about those 3 except that they are all lacking in the size department. Pittman is 5'11, while the other two are 5'9 and 5'10 respectively. So I really like the matchups that this will create. None of the 3, I'm told, is really fast enough to stick with Teddy Ginn. So I'd expect a safety over the top of Ginn for most of the game. However, Derek Hagan and Marty Booker (if he plays) are both bigger bodies and could be issues for the smaller corners.
Of course, the one major concern I have is how Cleo Lemon will hold up under pressure. I'm sure Brian Billick and company have seen how the Dolphin QBs have struggled when under pressure. So you'd have to imagine Billick will be bringing various players from all over the field on Sunday. Cleo will have to read the blitz and locate the hot receiver quickly for this offense to have any chance of scoring on Sunday.
But if this offensive line can give Lemon some time, I do think there will be a couple of opportunities to make plays down the field, especially to Ginn. We just have to hope Cleo can make a strong, accurate throw. That's something we haven't really seen out of him yet.
Other half of preview to come on Saturday. Thoughts below, as usual...