It’s only Week 14, but in many ways this matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins on CBS may as well be viewed as a playoff-elimination game in the AFC. The Dolphins and Ravens both enter today’s game at 7-5, part of a group of six teams with the same record. Miami is currently the leader of this pack, thanks to a series of tiebreakers. With so many teams bunched together, neither Miami nor Baltimore can afford a loss at this point, especially considering neither is leading their respective division.
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Miami -2.5
Baltimore is looking to regroup following last week’s 34-33 home loss to San Diego. John Harbaugh’s Ravens led by 10 with 6:13 to go in the fourth quarter, but the Chargers scored the game-winning touchdown with just 38 seconds left. Miami on the other hand needed a 10-point fourth quarter comeback of its own to avoid disaster Monday night in the Big Apple against the Jets. Even though the Jets ran roughshod over the Dolphins (277 yards rushing), Caleb Sturgis’ 26-yard field goal with 1:57 on the clock saved Joe Philbin’s team from an embarrassing loss that could have basically wrecked Miami’s playoff aspirations.
The key to this game may be how each offense attacks the other’s perceived weak spot on defense. For Baltimore this means taking advantage of a Miami run defense that’s giving up nearly 120 yards per game. Justin Forsett has been a revelation for the Ravens this season, already over 1,000 yards rushing and leading all running backs with an average of 5.6 yards per carry. Forsett is dealing with a knee issue, but he said he expects to play so he can get a shot at a defense that has surrendered 478 yards on the ground in its last two games.
Baltimore’s recent troubles on defense have come through the air. The Ravens gave up 420 yards passing and three touchdowns to Drew Brees two weeks ago, followed by 383 yards and three scores to Philip Rivers. Miami’s not known for throwing the ball all over the field, but Ryan Tannehill has been extremely efficient lately. He has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in each of the past five games. Last week also marked the first game all season in which Tannehill didn’t throw at least one touchdown pass.
The Dolphins have been pretty tough at home this season, having already defeated the Patriots and shutting out the Chargers while losing to the Packers on a last-second touchdown pass by Aaron Rodgers. The Ravens have experienced some highs (beating the Saints) and lows (losing 43-23 to the Steelers) on the road and their passing game has been inconsistent, while the defense has had to deal with the occasional breakdown or lapse in execution.
Baltimore probably needs this win more considering it is part of the highly competitive AFC North, but Miami has been more consistent over the past few months. This game will be close, but Tannehill makes enough plays in the second half and a late defensive stop will be enough to help the Dolphins maintain possession of a Wild Card berth, for at least one more week.