Both the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins have a record of 4-7 but are entering Sunday's game on different paths.
Despite being a team that’s been decimated by injuries this season, the Ravens are riding a two-game winning streak. In their last game against the Cleveland Browns on Monday night, the Ravens won the game 33-27 on a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown on the last play of regulation.
After winning their first two games under interim head coach Dan Campbell, the Dolphins have lost four out of their last five. The New York Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20 in Week 12 to drop Miami to 0-5 against AFC East opponents.
Since 2008, the Ravens have won their last four games (including playoffs) at Sun Life Stadium. In 2014, Baltimore defeated Miami 28-13 behind 269 yards and two touchdowns from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who won't play in this one after tearing two ligaments in his knee in the Week 11 win over the Rams.
Baltimore at Miami
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Miami -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Dolphins' offense
On Monday, the Dolphins fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor as the team's attack failed to produce much recently. In the last five games, Miami has averaged 15.6 points per contest. Currently, the team ranks 27th in yards per game with 335.9.
“I don’t think we scare anybody in the AFC East and that bothers me,” said Campbell. “We need to find a way, even if it is two yards and a cloud of dust.”
Campbell has been frustrated by the lack of production in the Dolphins' running game. Last week against the Jets, Miami rushed the ball just nine times for 12 yards on the day.
Quarterbacks coach and new Dolphins play caller Zac Taylor emphasized that the team is making a commitment to running the football.
“I can’t sit here and say that we’re going to run the ball 10 straight times,” said Taylor. “But it’s important to have the mindset that you’re going to establish the run.”
Baltimore ranks eighth in rushing defense, so gaining yards on the ground will not be easy for the Dolphins on Sunday.
2. Matt Schaub
On Monday night, Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub won his first game since September 2013. He threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Browns. But Schaub also threw two interceptions, including a 52-yard pick-six to Karlos Dansby.
With Schaub not playing in a full game in over two years, it is understandable why the 34-year-old was a bit shaky at times. Overall, Schaub played a decent game.
Miami gives up 253 yards a game through the air on average, which ranks 21st in the NFL. A veteran quarterback like Schaub should be able to find success against Miami's questionable secondary.
Schaub is 5-0 as a starter against the Dolphins in his career.
3. DeVante Parker
One of the few bright spots in last week’s loss to the Jets was the play of rookie wide receiver DeVante Parker. The No. 14 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in his first extended action of the season.
With Rishard Matthews expected to miss this game with a cracked rib, Parker is expected to make his first start of the season.
“It’s time for him to step up and take on a bigger role,” Campbell said.
Parker missed Dolphins OTAs and a number of training camp practices last summer as he was recovering from offseason foot surgery. Because Parker was so far behind, he was listed as the fourth receiver on the Dolphins' depth chart.
Despite the Dolphins not having a lot to play for with five games left, getting Parker more snaps could give him a lot of confidence heading into the 2016 season.
“I’m feeling very comfortable with the offense,” Parker said.
Miami has preached that they plan on running the football a lot on Sunday, but with the Ravens ranking 24th in passing defense, the Dolphins should make an effort to get Parker involved in the passing game.
The eighth loss for either the Ravens or Dolphins will officially eliminate them for playoff contention. This game is virtually a toss up with the fact that the Dolphins made a key coaching change earlier in the week.
The Ravens are battle tested and despite their extensive injury issues, they have continuity, something the Dolphins have lacked for years.
It is hard to make such a sudden coaching change in the hopes of getting more out of the offense, particularly in the running game and with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. This is a decision that Dan Campbell should have made during the bye week after he was named interim head coach.
Baltimore will likely make some mistakes, but Matt Schaub is playing better than Tannehill right now and he should be enough to guide the Ravens to a close victory on the road.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Dolphins 24
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.