Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens Playoff Primer
December 31, 2008 by AlexV
Game number three of Wild-Card weekend will feature two teams that had surprise turnarounds from last season. But of the two teams, the biggest surprise was last season’s hapless 1-15 Miami Dolphins doing a complete 180 with an 11-5 record this season while also earning the AFC East title. The Ravens, although always strong defensively, are nothing short of surprising either as they went from 5-11 last year to 11-5 this year. What makes their turnaround so remarkable was that they did it with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, and if it weren’t for injuries to both Kyle Boller and Troy Smith before week one, Joe Flacco may not have gotten his first start until later in the season and who knows what happens. With that being said, let’s take a look at the key phases of each team’s game.
Both team’s offenses seem to even one another out. The Dolphins score 21.6 points per game and the Ravens 24.1 points per game. Although the Dolphins average only 118.6 yards on the ground to the Ravens 148.5, Miami out-throws Baltimore by a tune of 227 yards per game to 175.5. This shows that the Ravens outrun the Dolphins by 29.9 yards per game, and the Dolphins pass for 51.5 yards more than the Ravens.
Even with that being said, conventional wisdom shows that the team with the better running game will win. And that should be the case here. What’s even more is that the Ravens are 3rd defensively against the run at 81.4ypg, and a whopping 2nd versus the pass giving up 179.7ypg. The problem the Dolphins have, even though they get to play in the confines of their home stadium, is that they are 25th against the pass at 227.8ypg, and 10th versus the run at 101.2ypg. In all respects, giving up 101.2 yards a game on the ground is not that bad, but when the duo of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams is good for a great total of 1,575 yards, and the Ravens trio of Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain, and Ray Rice combined for an outstanding number like 2,028, then not only are the Ravens defending the run better, but they are carrying the ball better as well.
Even though the Ravens outweigh the Dolphins in some key statistical categories necessary for playoff success, they have not been very good on the road playing against the projected playoff teams in the pre-season; at Indianapolis they lost 3-31, at the Giants they lost 10-30. Their only strong points against what were considered playoff teams were at Pittsburgh when they lost in OT 20-23, at the Dolphins when they won 27-13, and finally, when they beat Dallas 33-24.
Allow me to downplay. The Steelers and Ravens are diehard division rivals and always play each other tough. The Cowboys game had two aberration type plays on the Ravens final two drives; an 82 yard scoring run followed by a 77 yard scoring run. Any team would be lucky to get a run of either of those lengths all season long. Last but not least, when the Ravens beat the Dolphins in Miami in week 7, it dropped the Dolphins’ record to 2-4. Since then, Miami has gone 9-1 and are playing at a slightly different level than that period of time.
The other thing the Dolphins have going for them is that they had the fewest turnovers in the league with only 13. Chad Pennington had arguably his best season since his first ever rotator-cuff injury with a career-high 3,653 yards, 19 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions while completing 67.4 percent of his passes. Rookie QB Joe Flacco, although he had a great season for a rookie, 2,971 yards, 14 TDs, 12 INTs (not to mention his eleven fumbles) and completed 60.0 percent of his passes, he is still a rookie and is definitely mistake-prone.
Like one analyst put it… “What the Ravens thrive on, the Dolphins simply don’t do”… turn the ball over!
Although the Dolphins play at home, and are riding the emotional high an unprecedented successful season and comeback year of Chad Pennington, I have to go with the Ravens. They can negate their opponent’s run, and kill them with their own. Furthermore, Joe Flacco is quickly being molded into the confident game manager who can make a few plays here and there that Baltimore has been looking for. I only see Joe Flacco having, at the most, one turnover, and with their 2nd ranked total defense (261.1ypg) and 3rd ranked defense in points given up per game (15.2), the Ravens can easily overcome it. I cannot see a team who beat squads like Seattle without QB Matt Hasselbeck by two points, Oakland by two points as well, San Francisco by five, all at home, and Saint Louis by four on the road beating this gritty Ravens team.
Ravens will move on to play the one-seeded Tennessee Titans next week.