Game: Miami Dolphins (1-0) @ Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
Date/Time/TV: September 18th, 2022 / 1:00 PM ET / CBS
Location: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
SB Nation: Baltimore Beatdown | @BMoreBeatdown
Both teams enter this Week 2 matchup off emphatic victories in Week 1. The Dolphins rolled over the New England Patriots at home, while Lamar Jackson and the Ravens went on the road and took care of business over the New York Jets.
Led by head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens play fast, physical, and make you work for each and every yard gained. Nothing ever comes easy against Baltimore, and I don’t expect that to change on Sunday.
Who’s Got The Edge:
QB - Ravens. I can count the number of NFL quarterbacks more talented than Lamar Jackson on one hand, and as of now, that list doesn’t include Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa. While Dolphins fans wait for Tua to take that “next step”, Lamar has not only already taken that step, but also taken 5 more for good measure.
After winning the 2019 NFL MVP, Lamar again put up productive numbers in 2020 and 2021, putting up 7,400 yards from scrimmage and 51 touchdowns across 2 seasons. Even battling health concerns in 2021, he lead a depleted Ravens’ roster to an admirable 7-5 record as a starter.
Though Tua has shown glimpses of elite quarterback play over his short NFL career, his production and consistency on the field is far behind that of Lamar’s.
RB - Dolphins. On the basis of depth and how well they fit their respective teams, I’m giving Miami the advantage here.
J.K Dobbins is perhaps the most talented running-back across both teams, but hasn’t actually appeared in a regular season game since 2020. He ran for 805 yards and 9 touchdowns that season, but it’s unclear if he can replicate the same level of production following his ACL tear in 2021. The same goes for Miami’s Raheem Mostert, who has only appeared in 16+ games once in his 11-year NFL career. Mostert actually holds the record for most yards per carry (5.7) in NFL history, but unfortunately seems to spend more time on the sideline than the actual field.
So, onto depth. Behind Dobbins are Kenyan Drake and Mike Davis, two NFL journeymen who haven’t quite been able to find a permanent home just yet. However, behind Mostert is Chase Edmonds, who the Dolphins in signed in free-agency this past offseason. Fast, shifty, and deadly in the open field, he fits Mike McDaniel’s offense to a tee. He’s clearly the best-of-the-rest, and it’s not close.
WR - Dolphins. I said this last week, and I’m saying it again. There’s only a few teams in the league who hover above Miami’s receiving room, and Baltimore isn’t one of them.
In what some critics considered an “underwhelming” performance last week, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle still combined for 12 receptions, 163 yards, and 1 touchdown. If that’s underwhelming, then I can’t wait to see those two at their best.
The Ravens’ #1 receiver is Rashod Bateman, who racked up 46 catches for 515 yards in his rookie season last year. Certainly a promising player in his own right, but just not near any of Miami’s guys. The same can be said for Devin Duvernay, Demarcus Robinson, or any one of Baltimore’s receivers.
TE - Ravens. Mark Andrews is Mike Gesicki, if Mike Gesicki bothered to learn how to block.
Okay, that’s harsh. Or...is it?
Not only is Mark Andrews one of the few tight-ends who can better Mike Gesicki’s numbers (107 catches, 1,361 yards, 9 touchdowns in 2021), but he also contributes heavily to the Ravens’ offense as a blocker. In fact, on designed quarterback runs, it’s often Andrews who leads the way for Lamar Jackson.
ACTION. JACKSON. TOUCHDOWN.— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 8, 2020
Tune in on CBS! pic.twitter.com/jL6zxG3pMh
Now, can Mike Gesicki do that? Probably not.
Though a talented receiver, his lack of blocking ability has seen him take a back seat in Mike McDaniel’s new offense. The Penn State product only played 25 snaps in Week 1, and had 1 target all game. We’ll see if that’s set to change this week, and if McDaniel makes a conscious effort to involve Gesicki more often, but I wouldn’t exactly get my hopes up.
OL - Ravens. Although both units are riddled with injuries, Baltimore have a slight edge over Miami.
The Dolphins may be without both of their starting tackles on Sunday, which obviously isn’t ideal. Without Terron Armstead and Austin Jackson, Miami is only one player removed from last year’s offensive line, which ranked dead last in the league. And while the Ravens lost former-Dolphin Ja’Wuan James to a season-ending Achilles injury last week, and veteran Ronnie Stanley nurses an ankle injury, they still have the better unit overall.
Both groups are fairly equal between the guards, but Baltimore has the advantage at center with rookie Tyler Linderbaum, who many touted as the best offensive-lineman in last year’s draft. Connor Williams performed well as a center for the Dolphins in Week 1, but he’s clearly a guard by trade, and that may show at times on Sunday.
DL - Dolphins. Although fairly close, the Dolphins have the edge here.
The Ravens excel at stopping the run via defensive-tackles Calais Campbell and Justin Madubuike, but their ability to apply pressure off the edge is somewhat questionable. They only managed 34 sacks last season, which ranked 24th in the league.
Miami has a solid run-defense too, but has the edge-rushing ability to go alongside it. Courtesy of Emmanuel Ogbah and Jaelen Phillips, Miami had 48 sacks last season (5th-most). To that, they’ve only went and added veteran edge-rusher Melvin Ingram in free-agency, who put on a show in Week 1 vs the Patriots.
For what it’s worth though, both units are criminally underrated, and neither should be taken lightly on Sunday.
LB - Ravens. Neither team jumps out at linebacker, but Baltimore is slightly better.
MLB Patrick Queen is entering his 3rd NFL season, and many expect him to take a step up this year. Beside him is the underrated Josh Bynes, who finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 74.8 last season, higher than any of Miami’s linebackers.
Miami’s Elandon Roberts and Jerome Baker are fantastic at getting to the quarterback, but are generally weak in coverage. They struggle to keep up with tight-ends, which may be a problem on Sunday with Mark Andrews on the field.
DB - Dolphins. With Baltimore set to miss 4 of their starting CBs on Sunday, I’m giving Miami the advantage here.
Ravens will face Dolphins WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle with their top 4 projected CBs injured.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) September 16, 2022
Marlon Humphrey (groin): Missed Friday's practice
Marcus Peters (knee): Last game was 2020
Brandon Stephens (quad): Missed past 2 practices
Kyle Fuller (knee): Out for season
When fully healthy, the Ravens have one of the league’s best secondaries, and seeing them battle against Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle would’ve been fun to watch. However, with these injury woes, Miami has the clear advantage. Xavien Howard, Jevon Holland, and Kader “Darth Kader” Kohou will likely start on Sunday, and are the better group right now.
Special Teams - Ravens. No slight to Jason Sanders, but Justin Tucker is probably the best kicker in NFL history. He boasts a career FG success rate of 90.6%, the best in league history. He’s also made an astonishing 50 consecutive field goals in the 4th quarter and/or overtime, an NFL record.
Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders has shown promise in the past, but he’s made just 27 of his last his 35 FG attempts (77.1%).
Which Matchups Will Decide The Game?
1) Miami’s Front-7 vs. Lamar Jackson
Minimizing the threat of Lamar Jackson (both aerially and on the ground) is the key to stopping Baltimore. Now, while that’s much easier said that done, that doesn’t make it any less true. Stop Jackson, and you stop the Ravens.
In fact, the Dolphins have already written the blueprint for doing this.
In last season’s Week 10’s matchup against Baltimore, Josh Boyer’s Cover-0 defense had Lamar Jackson spinning in circles all night. Sending 7 or even 8-man blitz packages, Miami relied on Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, and Jevon Holland to take care of Baltimore’s receivers on their own. It worked wonders, and it’s hard not to see the same thing going down this weekend (albeit with slightly different personnel).
If Miami wants to leave Baltimore with a win, it’s crucial that they replicate last year’s success on defense. Send the extra pressure, and don’t hold back.
2) Establishing The Run
This new look Miami offense won’t fully explode until the Dolphins can punish teams on the ground, and Sunday will be no different.
The Ravens typically play Cover-2 or Cover-3 on defense, relying on additional safety help cover receivers. But if Miami can establish the run early, it’ll force Baltimore to drop their safeties closer and closer to the line-of-scrimmage, in an effort to stop Miami’s run game at the source.
By consequence, this would create 1v1 matchups for Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the outside, which Miami can take advantage of via play-action. Draw the safeties in close, and then take a shot downfield. That’s the Mike McDaniel way, and it’s only a matter of making the pieces come together.
While feelings are certainly high in Miami right now, I fear we’re 2-3 weeks away from seeing this offense at their full potential. Knowing this, the Dolphins’ defense will have to be absolutely perfect to come away with a win, and I can’t see that happening at this point in the season.
What are your predictions for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens? Leave them in the comments below!