Baltimore Ravens (4-9) at Miami Dolphins (0-13)
This is a Ravens team that has been just as big of a disappointment as our beloved Dolphins have been...except the Ravens do have 4 wins. But they started the season with high expectations, were 4-2, and then spiraled out of control are are currently in the midst of the NFL's longest losing streak (outside of Miami, of course): 7 games. But that's not to say they haven't had some good efforts in those 7 games. They lost by just 5 at Buffalo and by 3 at home to Cleveland. And we can't forget about that thrilling Monday night game two weeks back when they came oh-so-close to pulling off the upset against the Patriots. And I still believe that the holding call against the Ravens on that 4th down play with under two minutes left is a call that should not be made at that point in time, especially when the receiver being held is the tight end. Otherwise, you could make that call on almost every play when the tight end goes out to run a route.
Moving on, the point of that above was to just show you how the Ravens are like a 2 faced team. And we don't know what team we are going to face on Sunday. And despite Baltimore's stats (25th in both total offense and scoring offense), this is still a dangerous team. In my opinion, I think the Cincinnati game in the final week of the season is a more winnable game than this one. But for some reason, many think this has to be the week the Dolphins are to get that first win if they want to avoid going 0-16.
To do that, the Dolphins must stop Willis McGahee. He's had an up and down season, but he is the player in which the entire offense revolves around. And the whole country saw how dangerous he can be when he sliced and diced the Pats' defense for 138 yards. Now the Dolphins, historically, have been able to really contain McGahee when he was a member of the Bills the previous 3 seasons. He's averaged 90 yards per game in those 6 games, only scoring one touchdown. And he averages just 3.3 yards per carry against Miami. But that was with a different offensive line blocking for him and a drastically different Dolphins defense defending him. This year's Dolphins defense is allowing 155 yards per game on the ground (worst in the NFL) and 4.4 ypc (4th worst in NFL). So the Ravens will clearly try to run the ball down Miami's throats. And if the Dolphins can't stop it, then another loss is all but guaranteed.
But if the Dolphins can contain McGahee, that would mean Kyle Boller would have to make plays for Baltimore. And he's had an up and down season. He won his first 2 starts, but has lost his next 5 filling in for the injured Steve McNair. In those 7 starts, Boller has had 3 good starts, 3 bad starts, and 1 so-so start. So which Boller will the Dolphins see? I have no idea. He is coming off of a terrible 3 interception, 4 sack performance against Indy last week. But in that game, despite the 3 picks, Boller did complete 76% of his passes. In fact, his stat line last week is one of the oddest I've seen for a QB this year. But I think a lot of his success through the air has to be credited to his two top receivers, Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton.
Mason is one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL if you ask me. In his 11th year, Mason continues to be one of the most active receivers in the game. His 88 receptions is 3rd in the NFL and he continues to have some of the surest hands I have ever seen. It's amazing how he constantly gets overlooked as one of the better receivers in the game. All he does is move the chains, week in and week out. Mason is great at finding holes and just sitting in them. The Dolphins are going to have to have an answer for him, especially on 3rd downs. They can't allow this methodical Baltimore offense to convert on 3rd down after 3rd down.
Here's what I'll say about this matchup. If the Dolphins can slow McGahee like they've done all throughout his career AND if this Miami defense can get off the field on 3rd down, then the defense will have done its job. It'll then be up to the offense, which we talked about yesterday, to make a few big plays and win this game.
So can they do it? We'll find out.