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Five Players That Will Decide Dolphins vs. Ravens

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Miami looks to end its streak of bad luck against Baltimore Thursday night; and here are five players likely to play a large role in determining the outcome

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

A short week, a change of scenery and a new starting quarterback are all things the Miami Dolphins are facing Thursday when they travel to Baltimore to face the 3-4 Ravens.

The Ravens enter Thursday night’s game following a 24-16 loss against the Minnesota Vikings, marking the fourth time in the last five games that Baltimore has been on the losing end of the scoreboard.

Miami, off back-to-back wins while trailing by double digits, finds itself 4-2 on the year while also entering its first game of the season with Matt Moore at starting quarterback.

Moore, who replaced an injured Jay Cutler in last week’s 31-28 win against the Jets, finished 13-of-21 for 188 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Despite a short week to prepare for the Ravens, Moore shouldn’t be at much of a disadvantage this Thursday since he’s been with the team for seven years including both seasons with current head coach, Adam Gase.

Going back to 2008, the Dolphins have defeated the Ravens just one time – in 2015 – as Baltimore has taken six of the last seven meetings. If the Dolphins plan on putting an end to this domination the Ravens have over them, here are a few players who will need to perform at a high level in Thursday’s tilt.

Matt Moore

Despite the Dolphins’ backup quarterback leading a comeback last week against the Jets, there is something to be said about a guy making his first actual start of the season. However, as mentioned earlier, one thing Moore has going for him is his longevity with the team and experience in the system after playing at the end of the regular season and playoffs last year for an injured Ryan Tannehill.

The thing Moore has going against him is his knack for turning the ball over as he’s thrown 32 interceptions while fumbling the ball 17 times in his 10-year NFL career.

Since the Ravens – like the Dolphins – have their fair share of struggles offensively, averaging 18.6 points per game, Moore needs to take care of the ball to not allow additional possessions to Baltimore in what seems destined to be a low-scoring game. Odds makers currently have the total points scored in the game at just 37.

Ja’Wuan James

Terrell Suggs, who leads the Ravens this season with 4.5 sacks, primarily rushes the passer from the right side so James will be called upon to protect Moore to help ensure the Dolphins’ offense doesn’t commit turnovers or give Baltimore’s offense the opportunity to work with a short field.

With injury concerns across the offensive line, the health of James will be crucial moving forward as well as Miami lacks depth at the position after not really addressing the issue outside of signing Ted Larsen – who hasn’t played yet this season due to injury – and drafting Isaac Asiata who has been left off the active game day roster throughout the year.

Reshad Jones

Through seven games this season the Ravens haven’t shown to have one dominant offensive weapon that an opposing team’s cornerback or linebacker would typically be assigned to.

So while Miami should be able to play it’s base defense and not make significant schematic changes to take a single player away, Jones will be freed up to play both in the box against the run and in the secondary to help in coverage.

We’re just two weeks removed from Jones playing a large role in sealing the victory against Atlanta as he intercepted a tipped pass of Matt Ryan’s that secured the 20-17 win. If Jones and the Dolphins’ defense can create a turnover – or even score on defense – it will be difficult for the Ravens to overcome this disadvantage as they are 23rd in the NFL in points per game and 31st in total offensive yards per game.

Austin Howard

Baltimore’s right tackle, Austin Howard, will have his hands full Thursday facing Cameron Wake who is on a tear this season recording at least half a sack in five out of six games.

After adding two more sacks last week against the Jets, bringing his season total to six, Wake has been great once again this season in his pass-rushing specialist role. Splitting time with William Hayes at defensive end has proven to work well so far in 2017 as Hayes has done a great job playing the run while Wake sits 10th in the NFL in sacks.

Let’s also remember Wake and his history of putting a cap on primetime games as it was a Thursday night matchup against Cincinnati in week nine in 2013 when Wake sacked Bengals’ quarterback, Andy Dalton, for a game-winning safety to earn the 22-20 victory.

Jimmy Smith

Smith is likely to see both Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills on Thursday night, especially if DeVante Parker doesn’t play, as Landry has been getting a few more outside reps with Parker sidelined.

While Parker is the most physically gifted and intimidating of the Dolphins’ receivers, both Landry and Stills will be near the top of the Ravens’ scouting report as Landry has recorded a touchdown in three straight games while Stills has notched a touchdown in each of the five games Moore has appeared in the last two seasons.

With the Ravens struggling against the run, allowing a league-worst 145.3 rushing yards per game, their defense can’t afford to also slip in performance against the pass or it may be three losses in a row for Baltimore.