When the Ravens have the football: Anticipate offensive coordinator Matt
Cavanaugh using heavy input from coach Brian Billick in what may be Cavanaugh's
final game with the organization. That should mean more than a few of Billick's
beloved vertical shots. He can't resist. The Ravens will begin the game trying
to run the football. If that doesn't work against a Dolphins defense that is
actually stout against the run despite its statistics because the offense has so
many three-and-outs, then they'll go to the air.
It's a dangerous gambit against cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison. Knowing this coaching staff, though, they'll give it a shot. Based on recent trends, expect a lot of Randy Hymes and Clarence Moore and little to nothing from Travis Taylor. If they're going to throw, they had better block All-Pro defensive end Jason Taylor. Chip-blocking, that is. Jonathan Ogden is unlikely to be able to handle Taylor's heat all alone.
Key matchup: RB Jamal Lewis vs. MLB Zach Thomas
Lewis gets a rare look at a tough-guy linebacker capable of matching his power and speed.
How the Ravens can win:
1. Score on defense, perhaps with Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, capitalizing on quarterback Sage Rosenfels' inexperience and lack of savvy. Rosenfels lacks top-flight mobility, and the Dolphins' offensive line has allowed a staggering 49 sacks. The Ravens certainly don't have to worry about stopping the run. Without marijuana enthusiast Ricky Williams, Miami has the 31st-ranked running game.
2. Be cautious on offense about throwing the football in the direction of elite cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison. They can make you pay, and tight end Todd Heap and the running backs are targets that quarterback Kyle Boller should be capable of locating. It's worth noting that the Dolphins have allowed 19 touchdown passes despite having such a decorated defense, although they rank first against the pass.
3. Establish the run with Jamal Lewis. The Dolphins allow 140.8 rushing yards per contest despite having Zach Thomas at middle linebacker. They rank 30th against the run.
When the Dolphins have the football: Watch how often they run the football in interim coach Jim Bates' final game. Bates is pretty conservative, and plays not to lose the game on offense the majority of the time. He'll be even more guarded with Sage Rosenfels under center.
Running back Sammy Morris is a journeyman who gained 69 yards on 17 carries in last week's win over the Cleveland Browns. The Dolphins play pretty hard for Bates, who will be succeeded this week by LSU coach Nick Saban. Receivers Chris Chambers and Derrius Thompson and tight end Randy McMichael are a pretty good trio. The Dolphins converted 8 of 19 third downs last week, but passed for only 176 yards. The Dolphins are extremely careful with the football. They're also liable to play awfully hard to try to make a good impression on Saban, their incoming taskmaster coach.
Key matchup: WR Chris Chambers vs. CB Chris McAlister
Chambers has the athleticism and strength to push McAlister, who needs a good game after opening himself up for criticism with his dissenting remarks about the cracks in the locker room.
How the Dolphins can win
1. Exploit quarterback Kyle Boller's propensity for staring down his primary read and throwing into double coverage by overplaying Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap with an extra defensive back. Boller should have had three interceptions instead of one in last week's 20-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
2. Work double moves against cornerback Chris McAlister with swift wide receiver Chris Chambers. Throw underneath and vertically to Randy McMichael, one of the most dangerous tight ends in the NFL.
3. Attack the pocket against All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden with defensive end Jason Taylor. Ogden couldn't handle Dwight Freeney's upfield speed, and has struggled in the past against Taylor, one of the most athletic players in the league.
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