MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami/AP) — With the calendar now flipped to December, teams fighting for a playoff spot in the NFL know that there is very little, if any, margin for error.READ MORE: Lasers In Space: NASA's New Mission To Revolutionize Space Communication Set To Launch Dec. 5
The way Mike Wallace sees it, unless the Miami Dolphins rise to the occasion Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, Elvis has left the building.
“It’s now or never,” Wallace said.
The veteran receiver acknowledges the Dolphins still feel the sting of a late-season collapse a year ago that cost them a playoff berth. They’re eager to avoid a repeat, and the matchup against the Ravens is potentially pivotal.
Miami and Baltimore are two of six AFC teams tied at 7-5.
“It’s our time to shine,” Wallace said. “It’s our time to rise and prove that we’re a team that is trending upward at this time of the year and a different team from last year.”
The Ravens feel the same way. They made the playoffs every season from 2008 to 2012 before going 8-8 last year, and they’re eager to start another streak.
With the standings so tightly bunched in the final month, they know stakes are high.
“If you’re in the hunt and you lose, you’re in trouble,” coach John Harbaugh said.
Here are things to know as the Ravens and Dolphins hunt for a win:
PLAYOFF PATH: One projection gave the Dolphins a 39 percent chance of making the playoffs, with the Ravens at 33 percent. Miami coach Joe Philbin hasn’t checked the math.
“There are 9 million scenarios, I’m sure, and 8,000 different tiebreaker rules,” Philbin said. “So I haven’t spent time really figuring out all the variables and all the possibilities. What I have spent time on is watching the Ravens. This is a good team we’re playing.”
Five AFC teams have a record better than 7-5, which means a lot of competition for the sixth and final postseason berth. That makes it unlikely Baltimore and Miami will both earn a spot, lending more importance to Sunday’s game.
“They’re all one of 16, but that week, man, the game is the most important thing out there,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. “And this time of the year, when you see all the teams jumbled up there, it’s tough to not think it’s a little bit more serious than that. We definitely feel like it’s a big game, and it’s going to prove to be big in the end.”
WHAT A RUSH: Ravens running back Justin Forsett has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his seven-year career, and he leads all NFL running backs with an average of 5.6 yards per carry.READ MORE: Thief Steals 6-Foot Metal Menorah From Hollywood Family's Yard As Hanukkah Celebrations Begin
Now he’ll face a Dolphins defense that has been gouged on the ground for 277 and 201 yards the past two weeks.
“Watching them on film, I don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking this thing is going to be easy and we are going to be able to run all day,” Forsett said. “I know they are a physical bunch. I know they are athletic and they have a lot of playmakers over there, so I am anticipating a tough game.”
SACK HAPPY: With the Ravens struggling in the defensive backfield, sack specialists Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs have taken it upon themselves to increase the pressure on the quarterback.
“You have to have a good, effective pass rush every game,” said Suggs, who has seven sacks. “We have guys in this locker room that really love to get after the passer. That’s a key part of our game.”
Dumervil said his lofty sack total can be attributed in part to the secondary, even though the Ravens rank 31st in the NFL in yards passing allowed.
“I wouldn’t have gotten 12½ sacks without our coverage,” he said. “Pass coverage and sacks go hand in hand. I’ve got to get better, they’ve got to get better and we’ve got to do it together.”
The Ravens will be without defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, suspended for four games this week for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
FAVORITE FOIL: Harbaugh and Flacco are 4-0 against the Dolphins, including three wins in Miami.
“I really don’t remember the games that much, other than they’ve been hard-fought,” Harbaugh said.
Actually, the Ravens outscored the Dolphins in those four games 106-55. The past two times the Dolphins reached the playoffs, in 2001 and 2008, they were eliminated by Baltimore.
FAMILIAR FOE: Wallace faced the Ravens twice a season when he played for Pittsburgh, and said he knows what to expect.
“We always have hated those guys,” Wallace said. “It’s a physical week. We know it’s going to be one of those weeks where you have to bring your hard hat.”
Watch Miami take on the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)MORE NEWS: Have You Seen Them? Miami Police Looking For Missing 12-Year-Old Ana Contreras & 13-Year-Old Angelica Contreras
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