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Ravens @ Dolphins: 3 Key Matchups

Baltimore Ravens v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Ravens 2019 quest begins with a Week 1 contest versus the lowly Dolphins. Aiming to defend their 2018 AFC North crown, Baltimore has a prime opportunity to start the season on the right foot in Miami against foe that is expected to be the worst team in the NFL.

Head coach John Harbaugh owns a 6-1 record when facing the Dolphins, including a pair of blowout wins in the two most recent meetings. With Baltimore listed as a touchdown favorite and a 39 point total, the odds imply a 23-16 Ravens victory.

Key matchups:

RB Mark Ingram vs LB Jerome Baker

The Ravens rushing attack should maintain a clear advantage over the Dolphins defensive front. Miami allowed the second most rushing yards per game last season and their personnel remains underwhelming. Expect a straightforward ground and pound approach for this game while coordinator Greg Roman saves his offensive creativity for more demanding opponents later in the season.

Ingram was signed to serve as the lead back for Baltimore’s diverse committee and will likely be featured in Week 1. The threat of Lamar Jackson has created an efficient run game behind stalwart right guard Marshal Yanda, hulking right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and blocking tight end Nick Boyle.

The Dolphins will counter with second year linebacker Jerome Baker. In 11 starts last season, the Ohio State product compiled 57 solo tackles. If defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and first round pick Christian Wilkins can keep Baker clean, he has the range to slow down Baltimore. If the Ravens can establish the run early, they will dominate time of possession as well as the scoreboard.

FS Earl Thomas vs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

Earl Thomas was brought to Baltimore to generate turnovers. After losing several capable linebackers, the team may not rank as highly in terms of yards allowed as they did last season. But coordinator Don Martindale’s defense can more than make up for that by improving upon their 22nd best takeaway total of 17.

The NFL’s premier ballhawk secured three interceptions in four games in 2018. Thomas will face an ultra aggressive quarterback in Week 1. Fitzpatrick tossed a dozen interceptions in seven starts for the Bucs last year.

The Dolphins do field some decent receivers. Albert Wilson poses a legitimate threat after the catch from the slot and Kenyan Drake is a weapon out of the backfield. Yet if Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey can lock down DeVante Parker on the outside, Thomas will be freed up to hunt for interceptions.

Matt Judon and the Ravens pass rush should have no trouble beating the Dolphins abysmal offensive line. Under pressure and playing catch-up in a negative game script, Fitzpatrick’s passes are ripe to be picked.

TE Mark Andrews vs DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

By all indications, Andrews is poised for a breakout season. He was Lamar’s primary target throughout training camp after they built a fruitful connection in 2018. Miami will probably add numbers to the box to with underrated safety Reshad Jones. This could present opportunities for the Ravens receiving corps and their predicted leader Andrews.

However, former top draft pick Fitzpatrick has the skillset to neutralize the middle of the field. As a rookie last year, the versatile defender notched nine pass breakups and two interceptions along with 51 solo tackles. Miami plans to deploy their most talented player as a hybrid safety/linebacker in 2019.

Due to Jackson’s preference of throwing between the hashes, Fitzpatrick is sure to play an outsized role in this match. Picking off Lamar while also containing Andrews may be Miami’s best chance to spring the upset.

Score Prediction: Baltimore 27, Miami 10