By Abraham Gutierrez
With little time to celebrate, the Miami Dolphins quickly turn their attention to their Week 8 opponent, the struggling Baltimore Ravens. M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland will be the site for this clash of teams seemingly headed in opposite directions.
Opening kickoff is scheduled for Thursday night at 8:25 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast live on CBS and NFL Network.
This will only be the 15th time these franchises have crossed paths, with their most recent encounter dating back to last season. In front of over 70,000 euphoric fans, Baltimore took care of business at home, crushing Miami to the tune of 38-6 on Dec. 4 in the Old Line State.
The Ravens come in leading the overall head-to-head series over the Dolphins, 8-6, and have won six of their last seven meetings, including the postseason.
Ravens NFL 2017 record: 3-4-0
After finishing 8-8 last season and failing to qualify for the playoffs, it appears that Baltimore is headed for yet another mediocre campaign in 2017. After starting off the year with wins over the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, Baltimore has dropped four of its last five contests, including disappointing losses to Jacksonville (44-7), Chicago (27-24) and most recently, Minnesota (24-16).
The Dolphins come in winners of three straight games, while the Ravens have dropped two in a row. Heading into this contest, the biggest question for Miami is who will be under center Thursday night in primetime?
“He’s got multiple cracked ribs,” said Dolphins head coach Adam Gase when asked about starting quarter Jay Cutler. “We’re just kind of taking it day-to-day for now and just see where it goes from there.
“It’s not an easy injury, because it’s tough to breathe let alone throw. Right now it doesn’t look real good [that Cutler will play Thursday night against the Ravens].”
Ravens on Offense
Entering his second season at his position, Marty Mornhinweg is the Ravens’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. To say that things have gotten off to a rough start for this unit would be an understatement.
Baltimore’s offense comes into Week 8 ranked 13th in rushing yards per game (120.1), 23rd in points (18.6), 31st in total yards (277.6) and dead last in passing yards per contest (157.4). The top rushers in this unit are running backs Javorius Allen (82 carries, 301 yards, TD), Alex Collins (62 carries, 365 yards) and Terrance West (39 carries, 138 yards, 2 TDs).
Ravens on Defense
For years, defense has been the staple of the Baltimore Ravens organization. Over the past six seasons, Dean Pees has been the defensive coordinator who’s been at the helm of one of the most feared and respected “D” units in pro football.
Nevertheless, there are some holes for Miami’s offense to exploit, considering this team’s weaknesses play right into the hands of Miami’s strengths. One of the obvious points of attack for the Fins has to be the rushing attack.
With seven games in the books, the Ravens defense is ranked seventh in passing yards per game (189.3), 13th in points (21.1), 18th in total yards (334.6) and last in the league at 32nd in rushing yards allowed per game (145.3).
Last week against the Vikings, the Ravens defense surrendered 169 rushing yards, including 113 yards to running back Latavius Murray. In Week 6, Bears running back Jordan Howard ran wild for a career-best 167 yards. And finally, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell ran for 144 yards in Pittsburgh’s Week 4 win over the Ravens.
Ravens Players to Watch: Joe Flacco, C.J. Mosley
It’s no secret that, throughout the years, this team’s (offensive) success has depended on the play of longtime quarterback Joe Flacco. This season, the former Super Bowl champion (XLVII) and Super Bowl MVP has gotten off to one of the worst starts of his career. Even though Flacco has struggled in 2017, completing 143-of-224 passes for 1189 yards, 5 touchdowns and 8 interceptions (70.0 QBR), he’s always the player to watch on offense.
On the opposite side of the rock, the ageless wonder, Terrell Suggs (23 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), is having another phenomenal year. Yet somehow, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has managed to outshine him. Tied for league-high honors, the fourth-year man out of Alabama is currently knotted up with Green Bay’s Blake Martinez atop the NFL’s tackles (64) category to go along with a pick and a forced fumble.
In spite of the fact that this is a battle between two teams that appear to be headed in opposite directions, NFL Week 8 oddsmakers still list the home team as the betting favorite. According to NFL point spreads, the Ravens (-3½) are listed as three-and-a-half-point favorites when the Dolphins (+3½) come to town. The OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 37½ points and alternate straight-up lines go as follows: Miami (+145) at Baltimore (-165).