The Miami Dolphins face the Baltimore Ravens in a 1:00 kickoff in the AFC Wildcard playoff game in Miami. The Dolphins completed the biggest turnaround in NFL history and come into the game AFC East Champions at 11-5 and face the 11-5 Ravens in a rematch of a week 7 battle in Miami, which was won by the Ravens 27-13.
Both teams come into the game RED HOT, as the Ravens have won 9 of there last 11 games. Miami comes into the game winner of 9 of there last 10 games, the last of which was a 24-17 win over the New York Jets to give the Phins the AFC East championship. The Ravens won there last game of the season against Jacksonville 27-7.
One thing you can look for in this game is the Ravens will try to pound the ball with there run game, which comes into this game 4th in the NFL averaging 148.5 yards a game. They feature the trio of Willis MaGahee, LeRon McClain and they will have Ray Rice back for this game as well. In the first matchup MaGahee had 105 yards, due in large part to Jason Ferguson getting hurt in the 2nd series of the game and Paul Soliai being absent from the game due to suspension. Both players will be available for this game and that will be a huge plus. If the Ravens can establish the run game again, that will allow Joe Flacco to play action pass and challange down the field with the deep passing game. The Ravens have 2 very good wideouts in Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton and Clayton is the deep threat guy. The Ravens also have a very good TE in Todd Heap.
Point blank, Miami needs to be able to contain the run game and put the game in Joe Flacco hands. Flacco has played especially well for a rookie and the young man has a big arm and has showed the ability to make the big play in the pass game. He also has a 14-12 TD/int ratio, so he will throw the pick as well. Stop the run and come after Flacco, as the Dolphins are 8th in the NFL in sacks with 40. Be aggressive with your blitzes and Miami will need Joey Porter to be a factor in this game. Remember also that Miami ranks 8th in the NFL also in interceptions with 18, 2 which were returned for TD.
If Miami can acheive this defensively, there chances for success will be enhanced greatly. If not, then it will be a long day for the defense.
Offensively, the Phins face one of the very best defenses in the league led by Ray Lewis. Baltimore comes into the game ranked 2nd in total defense, 3rd in scoring defense, 3rd in rush defense and lead the NFL with 26 interceptions, lead by Ed Reed with 9 interceptions. Nothing is conventional about the Ravens D, as they will attack from all angles and will give you a variety of looks and are always on the attack. The Ravens also were the only team to contain the Wildcat Formation, as they were very aggressive with the formation and attacked the formation every time Miami got into the Wildcat. Chad Pennington had a solid game in the 1st matchup, but he had a key interception that went for a TD that he threw to Terrell Suggs and the Ravens were able to hold Miami to 71 yards rushing in the first game.
A big key will be the adjustments that Dan Henning and the offensive staff make in regards to how the Ravens attacked the Wildcat Formation. If Miami can use the Ravens aggressiveness against them, there are plays to be made. I expect the Ravens to be aggressive once again when Miami uses the formation and I believe Miami has more plays in the formation that they can use.
This is a game were Ronnie Brown needs to leave the dancing shoes at home and hit the hole and hit it hard. Ronnie has a tendacy to dance and juke, and that will not be effective against the Ravens. Ronnie will need to be like his running mate, Ricky Williams in regards to running down hill and playing fast. Miami will need to challange the Ravens with the run game, even if they are not highly succesful with the run, they need to continue to challange the Ravens to maintain a balance. With RB the caliber of Ricky and Ronnie, if you continue to hammer you could eventually break off a few runs.
Chad Pennington will have his hands full as well, as the Ravens will give him a variety of looks in the secondary and will come with a variety of blitzes to try to throw timing off. The OL played pretty well the 1st game in regards to pass protection and will need to have a similar performance. This is a game were you are glad to have a guy like Chad, a guy that is prepared and will have full knowledge of what the Ravens will try to do to him in the pass game. His execution of the game plan will be key against this defense.
Davone Bess, David Martin, Anthony Fasano & Ted Ginn will have to play well and I believe Miami will need a big play or two from Ted to make the Ravens pay for there aggressive nature.
Very few experts believe Miami can win this game and the Ravens are considered one of the teams who can make a deep run in the playoffs. Last time I checked though, the Ravens did lose 5 games this year. Miami can win this game if they execute and play there game. 1:00 can't get here soon enough.