Flying with the Flock: Ravens vs. Dolphins Preview
RAVENS VS. DOLPHINS PREVIEW – The Ravens got a statement win against Kyle Shanahan last Monday night. Let’s see if they can handle business against Shanahan Lite.
In all fairness, Mike McDaniel is more than just a low-calorie version of his former boss. He’s an innovator in his own right, and his league-leading 30.1 points per game proves as much.
A Mike Off
The Ravens’ Mike MacDonald put on a play calling masterclass against the 49ers, and he knew it.
The typically even-keeled defensive coordinator couldn’t contain his excitement after the Ravens sealed the win with a fifth interception. The broadcast caught his boisterous flexing, high-fiving, exclaiming celebration with his fellow coaches. But how will the second-year DC follow up his great outing?
Sure, he shut down Shanahan, but in doing so did he give Mike McDaniel the fast track to parrying Baltimore’s tricks? That chess match seems deserving of CBS’s A-team, but the Burrow-less Bengals and anemic Chiefs are apparently more exciting.
Most people associate the Dolphins with a high-octane passing game, and while Tyreek and the gang are among the league’s best, Miami’s run game is also elite.
There isn’t a faster one-two punch at running back than Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane. The two have combined for over 1,600 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground. You have to be unimaginably fast to be the change-of-pace runner in a backfield with Raheem Mostert, but that’s exactly what De’Von Achane is.
The blazing rookie out of Texas A&M is a blur. He’s one of the few backs explosive enough to challenge the Ravens’ linebackers moving east and west. As if tackling a runningback who runs a 4.32 weren’t hard enough, McDaniel knows how to scheme up massive swaths of space for his track stars to zip through.
By using the most motion of anyone in the league, the constant threat of an end around or double reverse forces defenses to be disciplined.
Waddling For the Wrong Reasons
Achane may be making his debut against the Ravens, but a familiar face won’t be out there for Miami on Sunday. Jaylen Waddle suffered a high ankle sprain against the Cowboys that will keep him out of this one.
Waddle and Tyreek Hill touched the Ravens in Week 2 of last season, totaling 361 yards and four touchdowns.
The absence of one of the game’s speediest receivers will certainly benefit Baltimore’s secondary. More attention can be sent in the direction of Hill, although he’s made a career out of thwarting double teams.
The Tua Attack
The Ravens’ pass rush has been a more than pleasant surprise this season, leading the NFL with 54 sacks. But this week’s objective might be a bit different, facing the quickest draw in the NFL, Tua Tagovailoa. Tua leads the NFL by a large margin in both RPO pass attempts and passing yards.
He gets the ball out of his hands faster than anyone else, so Baltimore must try to anticipate the windows McDaniel is trying to exploit and muck up the passing lanes. D-linemen can make their impact felt by getting their hands up to bat passes.
Fangio Finding Himself
After a slow start to the Fangio era in Miami, the Dolphins’ defense is starting to play like a pod. Only two teams have scored more than 20 points against them since Jalen Ramsey made his injury-delayed debut in Week 9. In Fangio fashion, the defense has blitzed at the fifth lowest clip in the league.
Despite this conservatism, Miami has gotten home the second most in the NFL, trailing the Ravens by two sacks. That’s a dangerous combination and the sign of a good defense. Lamar Jackson will have to bring his A-game if he wants to hold onto his MVP standing.
Do we even want the Ravens to win this game? Sure the No.1 seed would be nice, but the team squandered it in 2019. Of course, other factors produced that divisional round loss to the Titans, but I’m not keen on team sitting for 20 days until their next game. Now maybe players would opt to face Pittsburgh in Week 18 with the top seed already locked up, but I doubt it.
Ideally, we could trust the Ravens to ward off rust and look like themselves after a bye, but four-year-old images of errant throws and dropped passes haunt me. I fear the Ravens win.