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Thursday Night Football: Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens Preview and Prediction

Matt Moore

Matt Moore

This season’s Thursday night NFL slate has produced a couple of surprisingly high-scoring thrillers already this season. No one saw the Rams and 49ers combining for 80 points in September, and the Raiders needed all 60 minutes and a couple of untimed downs to beat the Chiefs 31–30 last week. But if this week’s game in Baltimore produces anything close to those kinds of fireworks, we’ll be stunned.

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Miami brings with it the NFL’s worst offense (261.8 ypg), and only Cleveland has more trouble scoring than the Dolphins (15.3 ppg). The Ravens haven’t been much better, ranking 31st in total offense (277.6 ypg) and 23rd in scoring (18.6 ppg). The overall results, however, have been quite different, as the Dolphins have won three in a row, while the Ravens have lost four of five. Baltimore also is banged up, with 14 players listed as questionable on the short week, including star defenders Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle.

While it may not be a shootout, both teams should be motivated. Baltimore needs to win to keep the Steelers from running away with the AFC North, while Miami wants to keep pace with New England and Buffalo in a shockingly crowded AFC East race.

Miami at Baltimore  

Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 26 at 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Ravens -3

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Three Things to Watch

1. Should Matt Moore have been starting all along?

Moore came on for an injured Jay Cutler and led the Dolphins from behind to beat the Jets on Sunday. Given how bad the Miami offense has been, it’s fair to wonder if the Dolphins should have bothered with Cutler at all after Ryan Tannehill went down in preseason. Moore filled in well last season, winning two of three late-season starts to help Miami into the playoffs, and he was having a big day in Pittsburgh in the playoffs before being knocked out with a concussion. Moore threw for 188 yards and two scores last weekend in less than a half, so don’t be surprised if he holds up just fine. Baltimore’s pass defense, however, will test him, as it ranks seventh in the NFL and has held three straight opponents under 200 yards through the air.

2. Someone has to get the running game going

To put it simply, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has been horrible this season. And we’ve established that Miami is down to its third choice at quarterback. So it stands to reason whichever team runs the ball better will have a leg up in this game. Things are not as they might seem here, though. The Dolphins have the kind of workhorse back in Jay Ajayi that you want to win a game on the ground, but they rank 29th in rushing yards per game (81.7) and are tied for 30th in yards per carry (3.3). Meanwhile, Baltimore’s backfield has been a revolving door, but the Ravens rank a respectable 12th in rushing yards per game (120.1) and are tied for 14th in yards per carry (4.2). Still, Ajayi may be ready to break out in this one. The Ravens rank last in run defense (143.3 ypg), while Miami is fifth (82.3 ypg).

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3. Can home-field advantage save the Ravens?

Home-field advantage isn’t what it used to be in the NFL (home teams are 55–51 this season), but it has always been big for the Ravens. How big? In their 17 seasons before this one, the Ravens went 6–2 or better at home 14 times. Sure, good teams usually play well at home, but in 2005, they went 6–2 at home and 0–8 on the road. It’s a real thing in Baltimore. And yet, Chicago came to town two weeks ago and raced out to a huge lead on its way to an overtime win. The Ravens didn’t even score an offensive touchdown, almost pulling the game out thanks to two special teams touchdowns. With four of their last six set to be played at home, the Ravens need to find their edge again at M&T Bank Stadium.

Final Analysis

It’s hard to believe that we would trust Matt Moore on the road in Baltimore more than Joe Flacco at home but... here we are. Flacco has done nothing to inspire any confidence (5 TDs, 8 INTs this season), while Moore has proven he can manage the game and make just enough plays if he gets help from the running game. Miami may stumble down the stretch, but for now we’ll take them to move to 5–2.

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Prediction: Dolphins 16, Ravens 14