Marlon Brown reflects on rookie season so far
The crystal ball has been a little cracked this year. We sure didn't see a 21-point win over Houston, nor a three-point loss at Buffalo. Let's see if it's working any better this week. Here's what it says will happen in Miami on Sunday...
1. The Ravens will score first.
In the past two games, the Ravens' five first-quarter drives have produced a grand total of one first down. They have been outscored 12-0 in the first quarter in the past three games. The Ravens need to start stronger and they know it. Look for them to come out aggressively on offense.
2. The Ravens will have more rushing yards than the Dolphins.
This seems to be going out on a pretty shaky limb after the Ravens ran a record-low nine times for just 24 yards at Buffalo. The Ravens rank 28th in rushing (64.0 yards per game), but the Dolphins are only slightly better (24th, 81.5). The Ravens defense was shredded by the Bills ground game last week, but that won't happen again.
3. Ray Rice will have at least 20 touches.
Ray Rice had just five touches against the Bills -- the lowest total since his rookie year (not counting his abbreviated appearance in the regular-season finale at Cincinnati last year). A week further removed from his hip flexor injury, he will be more involved in the offense. In the past three years, Rice has had fewer than 10 carries seven times; each time, he's had at least 15 carries in the next game.
4. ... including at least four catches.
Perhaps most surprising about the Bills game was that Mr. Hey Diddle-Diddle-Fourth-And-29 had no catches and was only targeted once. Rice had to stay in for pass protection more, and he was well covered when he did try to flare out for a check-down, but the Ravens will find ways to get him the ball in space. That remains one of their best offensive options.
5. Torrey Smith will have a catch of 25-plus yards.
Torrey Smith remains the only other proven offensive option. Smith's average of 20.7 yards a catch ranks second in the league. He had a 74-yard catch at Buffalo, and whether on a fly pattern or a catch-and-run, Smith will make another big play with his legs.
6. Dannell Ellerbe will lead Miami in tackles.
The former Ravens linebacker leads the Dolphins with 38 tackles and has three quarterback hits. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said this week Ellerbe is a "sideline-to-sideline linebacker, just like he always has been." Look for Ellerbe to be all over the field once again.
7. The Ravens will have at last four sacks.
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil must be salivating at the chance to pin their ears back and get after Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has been sacked a league-high 18 times. Haloti Ngata and Art Jones will cause problems up the middle as well.
8. Ryan Tannehill will fumble.
Tannehill has had trouble holding on to the ball, with 15 fumbles in 20 career games. He has a league-high six fumbles this season, losing three of them. Between the Ravens pass rush and Tannehill's carelessness, he will put the ball on the turf.
9. The Ravens will win the turnover battle.
Facing an error-prone quarterback, the Ravens must capitalize. If Tannehill fumbles, the Ravens must be on the ball. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is questionable, and the secondary takes a major hit if he doesn't play. The Ravens defensive backs have come up with only one interception all season, but that will change.
10. Ravens 23, Dolphins 20
Nothing about the Ravens' performance at Buffalo suggests they can go to Miami and win. But the NFL is nothing if not unpredictable. Raise your hand if you knew the Browns would be 3-0 after trading Trent Richardson. The John Harbaugh-led Ravens are 20-6 immediately after a loss, and the Ravens will be playing with a sense of urgency. Ray Rice will be more involved, Joe Flacco and the run defense will be much improved and the Ravens will escape with a road win.