Matchup Analysis: Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins

Vegas Prediction

Vegas says: Ravens 24, Dolphins 17

FBG Projections

TeamRushYardsTDCompAttPass YdTDINT

Ravens Rushing offense

Great matchup vs. the Dolphins defense.

Over the final 7 games of 2018, the Ravens ran the ball at the highest level of the NFL’s past couple of decades, averaging 45 carries for 229 yards. That would extrapolate to 722 for 3,664 over a full season. While those marks seem unlikely to hit, the Ravens will almost certainly pace the NFL on the ground. They’ve assembled a four-man team of runners to do it, and even if their distribution isn’t yet clear, all four have paths to success. Quarterback Lamar Jackson remains far more runner than thrower, and he could conceivably lead the team in carries. Over his 7 rookie starts, he turned 121 attempts into 556 yards. That usage should scale down noticeably, but Jackson’s speed and instinctiveness are a huge part of the Ravens’ approach. Ex-Saint Mark Ingram slots in as the starter behind him, but he’ll rotate liberally with Gus Edwards and rookie scatback Justice Hill. But the 29-year-old Ingram has long been a committee back, and the Ravens saw a lot of success down the 2018 stretch on the legs of Edwards. The 240-pound road-grader proved one of the toughest tackles in football as a rookie – he lost yardage on just a single one of his 137 attempts. He was also one of the league’s most effective short-yardage runners, so goal-line duties could be his as well. Hill is lightning-fast, and there’s a role for him in an offense that should run the ball 40 times a week. He’ll be used to test the edges and make plays outside. All will run behind an above-average line built to clear holes. All-Pro right guard Marshal Yanda returns, and there’s plenty of veteran depth to fill the guard hole on the left.

The Dolphins’ full-on overhaul extended to its run defense, where half of 2018’s line and strong-side starter Kiko Alonso have been shipped away. In their place are a few foundational pieces that the team will count on for an immediate turnaround. Last year’s Dolphins gave up the league’s second-most yards per game and seventh-most per attempt. Alonso will be replaced primarily by undrafted rookie Sam Eguavoen, with Raekwon McMillan returning to the middle. McMillian proved a mediocre run defender in what was essentially his rookie season, and he’ll be the anchor for a shallow group. The play of the linebackers will largely hinge upon how quickly first-round tackle Christian Wilkins acclimates to the NFL. Wilkins will team with promising young Devon Godchaux, who’s sturdy against the run, to clog the interior. Still, without much playmaking ability on the second level, this has the look of a leaky unit.

Ravens Passing offense

Neutral matchup vs. the Dolphins defense.

As a rookie, Lamar Jackson simply wasn’t trusted to throw the ball much. (He also turned quite a few pass calls into runs, of course.) He averaged just 159 per start, then was strongly hidden in the Ravens’ playoff game. But running quarterbacks do have to evolve, and Jackson threw noticeably more in his limited preseason action. He’ll likely continue to look short and underneath most of the time, seeking to limit complex downfield reads. When he does, he’ll have a handful of new, intriguing targets to aim for. Speedy rookie Marquise Brown was schemed a few touches in the preseason; he’ll log plenty of snaps, but may be limited to quick-hitting, Tavon Austin-like usage. Brown has elite foot-speed, but at 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds may not be ready to win tough battles down the field. Willie Snead and Chris Moore are low-impact options, so the team would love to give dynamic tight end Mark Andrews a big role. He hit on a handful of splash plays in 2018, averaging 16.2 yards on his 34 receptions. They’re also looking for downfield help from rookie Miles Boykin, who has dazzled onlookers at camp and in preseason play. Jackson never forged a connection with deep threat John Brown last year, so the hope is he and Boykin will grow together. Boykin is an intriguing size/speed prospect capable of winning on contested throws, a trait no one else on this roster really has.

The Dolphins pass defense proved an aggressive, but inconsistent unit in 2018. On the back of a ball-hawking secondary, the defense intercepted 21 of the 508 attempts it faced, good for the league’s second-best rate. Top cornerback Xavien Howard earned a hefty raise with his occasional shutdown play, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick made splashes in downfield coverage as well. Still, even with the Dolphins forcing turnovers, there was plenty of success to be had against them. With little pass rush to speak of, they allowed the league’s second-most net yardage per attempt, which factors in sacks and sack yardage. And they’ll enter 2019 with even less proven pass-rush talent: stalwart Cameron Wake is gone, as are Robert Quinn and Andre Branch. All told, expectations should be pulled even further down from last year. While there’s promising play throughout the secondary, it will be hard for this group to put pressure on opponents and force errant throws. Lamar Jackson will likely keep the ball grounded against them, playing against their primary strength.

Dolphins Rushing offense

Bad matchup vs. the Ravens defense.

The Dolphins enter 2019 with a clear one-two punch on the ground, with Kalen Ballage and Kenyan Drake the only clear-cut options to run the ball. Ballage saw 66 snaps over the final 3 games of his rookie year, turning 25 carries into 172 yards. It’s worth noting, though, that 44% of that yardage came on one run. Ballage offers big-time speed (a 4.46-second 40 at 228 pounds) but was never a consistent ground-gainer at Arizona State. He’ll likely split carries evenly with Drake, who’s always been long on dynamism (a career 4.7-yard average). Like Ballage, Drake has also never been entrusted with a workhorse role, nor anything close – he’s yet to top 133 rushes in a season, college or pro. The team will seek to mix-and-match their skill sets, riding the hottest hand and making for unpredictable production. Both runners will operate behind quite possibly the league’s worst front line. Our Matt Bitonti ranked it dead-last in the preseason, even before the team dealt away left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The Dolphins will likely start two rookie guards, and while both offer strong run-blocking potential, they’re very much in transition here. And there’s now uncertainty at left tackle, where Tunsil had been a building block. Drake and Ballage will have to rely almost entirely on their speed and athleticism to generate anything positive – especially against stout defensive fronts like Baltimore’s.

The Baltimore run defense, which was so dominant last year (third-best in yards allowed per carry), finds itself in transition to open 2019. The group lost not only stalwart linebackers C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs, but also 70% of its defensive end rotation. Mosley’s loss will certainly be felt: Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young will vie for snaps in the middle, though neither has ever been more than a part-timer. The good news is that both interior-line starters, Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams, remain in place. The 340-pound Pierce is one of the game’s best space-eating noses, and Williams remains a difficult block in his own right. They should anchor the front nicely and give the inexperienced linebackers room to roam. Tony Jefferson will step into the strong safety role with Eric Weddle gone, playing mostly in the box, and was actually the better run defender last year. This is still a unit that is one of the best in the league on paper, it will just be a matter of can they come together as quickly to be as dominant as they were last season.

Dolphins Passing offense

Bad matchup vs. the Ravens defense.

It’s fair to call the Miami passing game a complete mess entering the year. This had the look of a low-volume, low-efficiency unit even before wideout Kenny Stills and left tackle Laremy Tunsil were traded last week. There wasn’t much of a quarterback competition during the preseason, which is a terrible sign for young Josh Rosen. The former first-round pick was, by all accounts, out practiced and outplayed by 36-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will open Sunday under center. Fitzpatrick’s outlook is the same wherever he suits up: an aggressive gunslinger unafraid to test downfield windows in search of a big play. Sometimes he’s successful – he posted four 400-yard games in Tampa Bay last year, with 17 touchdowns in essentially half a season. But he’s also an erratic, turnover-prone passer, with a career 3.5% interception rate. Rosen may see snaps as early as Week 1, given Fitzpatrick’s collapse potential. But it’s hard to feel confident in his abilities after both the Cardinals and Dolphins have opted to start shaky veterans on Opening Day. With Stills gone, Albert Wilson looks like the clear No. 1 wideout. Wilson is primarily a slot specialist but boasts the ability to create after the catch. Last year he produced plays of 75, 74, and 43 yards, all of which came on short throws underneath. Healthy again, Wilson should lead the way in targets, but this offense doesn’t look suited to give him much big-play and scoring opportunity. Across the field, DeVante Parker remains as a nominal starter. Now five seasons into a disappointing career, Parker enters the year healthy but has long struggled with injuries and inconsistency. He’s yet to post an 800-yard NFL season, and his role could be under siege by impressive rookie Preston Williams. Return specialist Jakeem Grant brings lid-lifting ability but has caught just 34 passes over 42 games. Tight end Mike Gesicki followed his disappointing rookie year with, by most reports, an even worse second preseason. His strong athletic profile has yet to roll over into the NFL.

The Ravens’ stingy pass defense only got richer in the offseason. Adding future Hall of Famer Earl Thomas to the mix was a bold move and one that should make the downfield game nearly impossible most weeks. The pass-game upgrade to Thomas from Eric Weddle should be sizeable, and the Ravens are candidates to lead the NFL in interceptions. They’re flushed with talent at cornerback, where Marlon Humphrey has developed into one of the league’s brightest defensive stars: he’s broken up 26 passes through 27 NFL games. Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith will rotate on the other side, and both are proven playmakers on the ball. Carr is the more consistent cover man and coming fresh off one of his best seasons, while Smith has long struggled with injury and consistency. He fits beautifully, though, as anyone’s No. 3 cornerback. If there’s a weakness, it’s in the slot, where Tavon Young was very up-and-down in 2018. Still, Thomas can help stem the bleeding there at times, and it’s hard to project much week-to-week efficiency. The Ravens do have some pass-rush production to replace, but they’ve always been adept at manufacturing pressure from all over the formation.

Lamar Jackson (FanDuel: $7400, DraftKings: $6000)

1PROJ-Dodds18292091.20.711540.422.422.422.4 (H=58)22.4 (H=72)
1PROJ-Tremblay22362511.31.111510.222.922.922.9 (H=61)22.9 (H=75)
1PROJ-Bloom14221851.20.510540.421.421.421.4 (H=54)21.4 (H=67)

Mark Ingram (FanDuel: $6600, DraftKings: $5100)

1PROJ-Dodds15650.52.2160.111.713.912.8 (H=25)13.9 (H=37)
1PROJ-Tremblay12560.42.7210.110.713.412.1 (H=22)13.4 (H=35)
1PROJ-Bloom15690. (H=25)13.5 (H=35)

Justice Hill (FanDuel: $5000, DraftKings: $3600)

1PROJ-Dodds6250.11.19045.14.6 (H=5)5.1 (H=9)
1PROJ-Tremblay5200.11.31003.64.94.3 (H=5)4.9 (H=8)
1PROJ-Bloom9550.31.01008.39.38.8 (H=17)9.3 (H=26)

Gus Edwards (FanDuel: $4800, DraftKings: $3100)

1PROJ-Dodds4200.10.0002.62.62.6 (H=2)2.6 (H=3)
1PROJ-Tremblay5220.10.1102.933 (H=2)3 (H=4)
1PROJ-Bloom8350.30.0005.35.35.3 (H=7)5.3 (H=11)

Willie Snead (FanDuel: $4800, DraftKings: $4000)

1PROJ-Dodds2.9330.20004.57.46 (H=9)7.4 (H=16)
1PROJ-Tremblay3.0340.20004.67.66.1 (H=9)7.6 (H=16)
1PROJ-Bloom3.0350.20004.77.76.2 (H=9)7.7 (H=17)

Marquise Brown (FanDuel: $5000, DraftKings: $3800)

1PROJ-Dodds2.3310.20004.36.65.5 (H=7)6.6 (H=13)
1PROJ-Tremblay2.9400.20105.38.26.8 (H=11)8.2 (H=20)
1PROJ-Bloom2.0240.20003.65.64.6 (H=5)5.6 (H=10)

Miles Boykin (FanDuel: $4500, DraftKings: $3000)

1PROJ-Dodds2.0290.10003.55.54.5 (H=6)5.5 (H=12)
1PROJ-Tremblay2.6360.20004.87.46.1 (H=10)7.4 (H=21)
1PROJ-Bloom2.0310.20004.36.35.3 (H=7)6.3 (H=16)

Chris Moore (FanDuel: $5100, DraftKings: $3200)

1PROJ-Dodds1.3160.10002.23.52.9 (H=2)3.6 (H=5)
1PROJ-Tremblay1.1140.10202.23.32.8 (H=2)3.4 (H=5)

Mark Andrews (FanDuel: $5400, DraftKings: $3000)

1PROJ-Dodds2.7380.35.68.37 (H=10)8.3 (H=26)
1PROJ-Tremblay3.2420.25.48.67 (H=10)8.6 (H=27)
1PROJ-Bloom3.0480. (H=13)9.6 (H=33)

Justin Tucker (FanDuel: $--, DraftKings: $--)


Baltimore Ravens (FanDuel: $5000, DraftKings: $3800)

1PROJ-Dodds16.93002.310.80.10.510.910.910.9 (H=25)10.9 (H=32)
1PROJ-Tremblay16.253011.8110.10.712.312.312.3 (H=30)12.3 (H=40)

Ryan Fitzpatrick (FanDuel: $6200, DraftKings: $4900)

1PROJ-Dodds20322001.11.1270141414 (H=31)14 (H=39)
1PROJ-Tremblay1728208113100.1151515 (H=35)15 (H=44)
1PROJ-Bloom21381860.81.53110.112.712.712.7 (H=26)12.7 (H=33)

Matt Breida (FanDuel: $5400, DraftKings: $4000)

1PROJ-Dodds10480.32.1170.18.91110 (H=19)11 (H=31)
1PROJ-Tremblay11500.31.5120.18.610.19.4 (H=17)10.1 (H=27)
1PROJ-Bloom13660.42.0190.111.513.512.5 (H=29)13.5 (H=45)

Jordan Howard (FanDuel: $5800, DraftKings: $4200)

1PROJ-Dodds11480.40.7507.78.48.1 (H=12)8.4 (H=18)
1PROJ-Tremblay9370.31.0806.37.36.8 (H=9)7.3 (H=14)
1PROJ-Bloom13560.50.0008.68.68.6 (H=14)8.6 (H=19)

DeVante Parker (FanDuel: $5300, DraftKings: $3900)

1PROJ-Dodds3.2390.30005.78.97.3 (H=11)8.9 (H=22)
1PROJ-Tremblay3.0410.20005.38.36.8 (H=10)8.3 (H=20)
1PROJ-Bloom3.0380.2000586.5 (H=9)8 (H=18)

Albert Wilson (FanDuel: $5000, DraftKings: $3900)

1PROJ-Dodds3.3380.20105.18.46.8 (H=11)8.4 (H=20)
1PROJ-Tremblay2.8410.21405.78.57.1 (H=11)8.5 (H=20)
1PROJ-Bloom4.0350.20004.78.76.7 (H=10)8.7 (H=21)

Preston Williams (FanDuel: $4500, DraftKings: $3000)

1PROJ-Dodds1.9240.100034.94 (H=4)4.9 (H=10)
1PROJ-Tremblay0.81100001.11.91.5 (H=0)1.9 (H=2)
1PROJ-Bloom2.0270.10003.35.34.3 (H=5)5.3 (H=11)

Jakeem Grant (FanDuel: $4500, DraftKings: $3000)

1PROJ-Dodds1.4150.10002.13.52.9 (H=2)3.6 (H=6)
1PROJ-Tremblay1.8250.10003.14.94.1 (H=5)5 (H=10)
1PROJ-Bloom3.0260.10003.26.24.8 (H=6)6.3 (H=16)

Allen Hurns (FanDuel: $4500, DraftKings: $3700)

1PROJ-Dodds1.4150.10002.13.52.8 (H=2)3.5 (H=4)
1PROJ-Tremblay1.8250.10003.14.94 (H=4)4.9 (H=8)

Chester Rogers (FanDuel: $4700, DraftKings: $3300)

1PROJ-Dodds0.000000000.1 (H=0)0.1 (H=0)
1PROJ-Tremblay1.5160.10002.23.73 (H=2)3.8 (H=6)

Gary Jennings (FanDuel: $4500, DraftKings: $3000)

1PROJ-Dodds0.000000000 (H=0)0 (H=0)
1PROJ-Tremblay0.000000000 (H=0)0 (H=0)
1PROJ-Bloom1.090.10001.52.52 (H=1)2.5 (H=3)

Mike Gesicki (FanDuel: $4900, DraftKings: $3000)

1PROJ-Dodds2.2210. (H=5)5.5 (H=12)
1PROJ-Tremblay1.6150. (H=2)3.7 (H=6)
1PROJ-Bloom2.0210. (H=3)4.7 (H=9)

Adam Shaheen (FanDuel: $4000, DraftKings: $2700)

1PROJ-Dodds1.7180. (H=3)4.1 (H=8)
1PROJ-Tremblay1.2130. (H=2)3.1 (H=5)
1PROJ-Bloom2.0220. (H=6)5.4 (H=13)

Jason Sanders (FanDuel: $--, DraftKings: $--)


Miami Dolphins (FanDuel: $3000, DraftKings: $2100)

1PROJ-Dodds22.23902.20.90.600. (H=22)7.7 (H=32)
1PROJ-Tremblay21.254042.31.10.700. (H=31)9.3 (H=45)