Dolphins (4-3) @ Ravens (5-2)

Greetings from sunny Florida, Nestgoers.

I’m on a mini-vacation down in Ft. Myers for a friend’s wedding, so this week’s game preview will be a bit on the short side. If you’re hankerin’ for more Nest goodness though, don’t forget to check out Goob’s pregame video.

The Miami Dolphins bring their spotless 2010 road record to M&T Bank Stadium to face a Ravens team that is on a six game home winning streak dating back to last season. The Ravens haven’t lost at the Purple Palace in nearly an entire calendar year, with their last defeat coming on November 22, 2009 against the Colts.

So, what will give this week? Let’s dive into the matchups a bit.

Surprisingly enough, the Dolphins best the Ravens in just about every statistical category entering this game. Their offense is ranked 13th; the Ravens is 14th. They are #8 on defense; the Ravens are #10. However, the Ravens are doing a much better job of both getting into the end zone and keeping the other team out of it. On the one statistic that really matters – points (both for and against) – the Ravens best the ‘phins. Baltimore is scoring 21.3 points per game while allowing 18.4, and Miami is putting up just 19.0 and are allowing over 21. The Dolphins’ red zone woes are well documented, and kicker Dan Carpenter has been their biggest offensive weapon this season. Carpenter has kicked 13 field goals in just the past 3 games.

As Goob mentioned in his video, this game could possibly give Anita Marks an orgasm, as both Brandon Marshall and Anquan Boldin will be on the same field. Marks, the former Baltimore radio personality, clamored for years for the Ravens to add one of these two “big name wide receivers” to their roster. While the Ravens chose Boldin, the Dolphins went with Marshall, the former Denver Bronco. Marshall and Boldin have put up similar numbers so far with their new teams:

Marshall: 47 receptions, 588 yards, 1 TD, 12.5 average
Boldin: 38 receptions, 518 yards, 5 TD, 13.6 average

It’s safe to say that both teams are very satisfied with their new additions to this point.

The Ravens saw Marshall last season when he was with Denver, and had no problem shutting him down – he managed just 4 catches for 24 yards in his last action at M&T Bank Stadium. They will have to do a much better job of tackling this week than they did against Buffalo two weeks ago, as Marshall makes his money on yards after the catch.

The ‘phins, however, have other weapons to compliment #19. Fellow wideout Davone Bess is one of the best 3rd down receivers in the NFL. He has 39 receptions for 401 yards and three scores. Along with tight end Anthony Fasano (17-234-2), 3rd year quarterback Chad Henne has a full compliment of targets to potentially exploit a Ravens secondary that has had several tough games in a row.

So far in 2010, the Dolphins have been reluctant to “take the training wheels off” of Henne, leaving many Miami fans frustrated with the team’s conservative offensive approach?

Sound familiar, Baltimore?

Could the Dolphins, though, after seeing the ridiculous amount of success Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills’ passing game had, choose this as the week that they finally unleash Henne? Or did the Ravens make the necessary adjustments in their coverage schemes during the bye week to manage another mid-season turnaround (similar to the one they displayed after the bye in 2009)?

The answers to those questions are likely to go a long way in determining the outcome of this one.

Fabian Washington will need to be 1000% better than he was against the Bills, that’s for damn sure. If if he isn’t “starting,” he will certainly be on the field at times and there is no doubt that Henne will be under orders to find #31. Here’s hoping Fabe puts the Buffalo game behind him, and turns in a performance more similar to the Denver game, when he defended four passes.

On offense, I look for Cam Cameron to have put in a few new wrinkles to the Ravens offense. The latest on Donte’ Stallworth is that he should be ready to go Sunday, giving the Ravens’ offense that deep threat that they have been sorely lacking. Fortunately for Joe Flacco, the Dolphins are more of a man-coverage team than a Cover 2 type. Miami cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Jason Allen are no slouches, but Stallworth’s presence should open things up underneath for Boldin, Derrick Mason, and Todd Heap moreso than Flacco is used to. The Ravens should be able to continue the offensive success they’ve experienced of late, with Joe Flacco being the NFL’s highest rated passer since Week 3.

A win Sunday would give the Ravens a solid 3-1 record against the very tough AFC east. They’ll be well rested after their week off, and eager to prove that Buffalo’s offensive explosion was nothing but an anomaly. B’More finally adds a blemish to Miami’s road record.

Ravens 27 Dolphins 16


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