The Miami Dolphins are favored to win this week's contest, most likely because it is a game not against an AFC East opponent. The Dolphins are 0-5 on the year against their own division, and 4-2 against teams outside the AFC East. Which brings us to this weekend's contest against the Baltimore Ravens, an AFC North team who is having just as bad a season as the Dolphins. Both clubs come into this game with 4-7 records, though the Ravens are actually in third place in their division thanks to a 2-9 Cleveland Browns club, while Miami is in the AFC East cellar.
The Dolphins opened this week as 4.5 point favorites, then saw the line move down to 3.5 points before coming back up to 4 point favorites. Can the Dolphins cover the spread this weekend?
Baltimore has 17 players on injured reserve. No, literally 17 players. The list of injured players who are out for the year is almost twice as large as the practice squad, and it is filled with key starters. They are without wide receiver Michael Campanaro, cornerback Will Davis, safety Matt Elam, quarterback Joe Flacco, tight end Chase Ford, running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Breshard Perriman, tight end Allen Reisner, wide receiver Steve Smith, Jr., outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, running back Lorenzon Taliaferro, outside linebacker Zach Thompson, wide receiver Darren Waller, cornerback Julian Wilson, wide receiver Cam Worthy, and guard/center Jeremy Zuttah. Now add to that wide receiver Marlon Brown, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Maxx Williams, and guard Kelechi Osemele (plus non-injury related non-practicers defensive end Chris Canty and linebacker Daryl Smith), all of whom show up on this week's injury report, and there is a lot of talent missing or hurting from the Ravens. Miami needs to take advantage of Baltimore when they are down, and pick up some momentum for the rest of the season.
Ravens pass defense
The Ravens, despite all the injuries, still have a good run-defense. What they are lacking is a pass defense. If Miami's offensive line can just slow down the Baltimore pass rush, Ryan Tannehill could have a big day. The Dolphins, after firing offensive coordinator Bill Lazor this week for not running the ball...EVER...actually will be facing a team this week where being a pass-first offense makes a lot of sense. That said, Miami should be more balanced, but being able to pick up four points more on a pass defense that is allowing 259 yards per game and 21 touchdowns through the air this season, compared to just four interceptions, should be manageable. Plus, Jarvis Landry is, at some point, going to simply will Miami to a win. (Not that Miami is has not allowed 23 touchdowns through the air, but we aren't talking about them right now...)
The Ravens have given the ball away 19 times this year, with only 9 takeaways, giving them a -10 total for the year. Miami is not much better at -4, but the Dolphins are not using Matt Schaub at quarterback. The Ravens' quarterback has a knack for throwing the interception - even going so far as making it the pick-six type of interception - and the Dolphins should be coming into this game playing with a chip on their shoulder. They have been embarrassed at home too often this year and they were embarrassed last week by the Jets, meaning they should want to prove something. Brent Grimes had a bad game, one of the worst we have seen from him as a Dolphins player, against Brandon Marshall last weekend, and he was disappointed in his performance. Hopefully that means he is ready to come out and get back to the ball-hawking ways of Pro Bowl Brent Grimes.
If we are all honest with ourselves, there is a lot of "should" and "could" in those paragraphs above, because there is no real telling how the Dolphins will look on Sunday. They could come out and torch the Ravens. They could come out and let Baltimore beat them down (get it? No? You will in a minute). This game could be ugly for Miami, it could be ugly for Baltimore, and it could just be an ugly game for us to watch. I think Miami should cover a four-point spread against a team this banged up, but we all also thought the Dolphins would be contending for the Playoffs and be a factor in the AFC East this year....so who knows.
For reasons why the Ravens will cover the spread, check out Baltimore Beatdown. (Now, do you get it?)