We are now halfway through the 2010 NFL season, and Week 9 provides many do or die situations for teams with aspirations of making the postseason.
One of the best matchups in Week 9 is between the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens—two teams that need a win to keep pace in their respective divisions.
Miami is coming off a come from behind victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, while the Ravens are fresh off their bye week.
On paper this game looks like it should be a defensive struggle, but both teams have the capability to air it out and put up big offensive numbers.
The Ravens have always been known for their tough defense, and they continue to have one of the best defenses in the league year after year, but with the addition of wide receiver Anquan Boldin, Baltimore now has another deep threat for Joe Flacco to go along with Derrick Mason.
The Ravens also have a versatile rushing attack to go along with their passing game, as Ray Rice and Willis McGahee have combined for 730 yards and six touchdowns thus far this season.
The Ravens will be entering Sunday’s game against Miami fresh since they are coming off their bye week, but before the bye, Baltimore competed in two very close games. In the two games before their bye week, the Ravens went into overtime against the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. Baltimore was 1-1 in those games, losing to the Patriots 23-20 and winning against the Bills 37-34.
Now Miami is coming to Baltimore with a 4-0 record on the road this season, so the questions that remain are whether or not the game goes into overtime and if the Miami Dolphins can remain perfect on the road this season.
I would not be surprised if this game does go into overtime because the Ravens' past two games playing against teams from the AFC East have gone into overtime, and this will be the third straight game that the Ravens play an opponent from the AFC East.
Miami, on the other hand, is coming off two straight games against teams from the AFC North, where the Dolphins lost 23-22 against the Pittsburgh Steelers after a controversial call by the referees and won against the Cincinnati Bengals 22-14.
Both Miami and Baltimore need a win because this game could have huge implications for the AFC playoff picture, as both teams are currently in the hunt for wild card spots.
Miami currently sits at a record of 4-3 and remains two games behind AFC East division leader the New England Patriots, while the Ravens' record is 5-2, which puts them tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the division lead in the AFC North. Something has to give in this game as the Ravens are undefeated at home so far this season, while on the other side of the ball Miami remains perfect on the road.
Both Miami and Baltimore’s records are above the .500 mark, but both teams are not living up to their full potential. The Ravens are usually very sound on defense, but in their last game against the Bills they allowed 34 points to a team that was 0-5 at the time. If the Ravens are going to win against Miami on Sunday, they will have to be sounder on the defensive side of the ball and keep turnovers to a minimum.
The Dolphins have also not been playing to their strengths lately, as Miami needs to start taking advantage of their many red zone opportunities by scoring touchdowns instead of field goals. In the past three games for Miami the Dolphins' best scoring threat has been kicker Dan Carpenter, who has made 13 of 13 field goals attempted.
The Dolphins will have to be more aggressive against the Ravens and open up the passing game for wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Miami has not taken full advantage of Marshall’s deep threat ability, and they must find a way to get him involved in the action against Baltimore if they are going to keep their undefeated record on the road intact.
This is a game filled with star power, as we have two young QBs in Chad Henne and Joe Flacco who are still trying to prove themselves in this league and show people that they are the future of their respective franchises. Both sides also have explosive weapons in the passing game with Brandon Marshall and Anquan Boldin, as well as solid running backs in Ronnie Brown and Ray Rice.
Lastly, both teams have strong defenses with premier players, including Miami’s top pass rusher in Cameron Wake and Baltimore’s defensive leaders of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
The result of this game could very well determine who makes the playoffs and who does not, as both teams cannot afford to fall any further behind in their respective divisions.
My prediction is that this game will be a defensive struggle since Miami seems to play much better defense on the road this season and that Miami will once again rely on their kicker Dan Carpenter to kick a game-winning field goal, with Miami upsetting the Ravens by a score of 23-20.