Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun
The Dolphins lost one of their top pass rushers, Jaelan Phillips, to a torn Achilles tendon, but like the 49ers, they press the pocket from inside as well as from the edges. Former Raven Zach Sieler and fellow defensive tackle Christian Wilkins have combined for 16 sacks and 39 quarterback hits. The Dolphins blitz on just 18.8% of dropbacks, relying on their talent up front to harass quarterbacks, who have averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt against them. They also have star power in the secondary, where cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard are former All-Pros, and safety Jevon Holland (who’s dealing with a knee injury but hopes to face the Ravens) is playing like one. Despite their impressive statistics, the Dolphins rank 12th in pass DVOA because they have played the league’s easiest schedule of offenses.
The Dolphins have held opponents to 3.7 yards per carry but rank just 21st in DVOA against the run because of the weak offenses they’ve faced. Linebacker David Long is their top playmaker in the middle, and Holland provides sturdy support from the secondary. Miami’s defensive line ranks 23rd in success rate against power runs and 26th in stuffing runs at the line of scrimmage, per DVOA creator Aaron Schatz, so the Ravens could grind on the Dolphins if they build an early lead.
If Ravens-49ers was the game of the year, this one is even more important. The Ravens will need takeaways to counter unavoidable chunk gains from Miami’s playmakers. The Dolphins won’t have an answer for Jackson, but if they can go up early, they might prevent the Ravens from pounding on them in the second half. Advantage goes to the home team as these heavyweights match strengths. Ravens 31, Dolphins 27
Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner
What they usually do: Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen are among Macdonald’s favorite chess pieces. Most of the time, they line up a few yards off the ball, behind the defensive line, ready to patrol the middle of the field. But on obvious passing downs, they’ll go wherever they’re needed: over the center or a guard, in the slot, even out wide.
How they lie: Smith and Queen are the key cogs in the the Ravens’ simulated-pressure packages, where the threat of a blitz — often with the two linebackers lined up over the middle of the offensive line before the snap — forces offenses to adjust their protection rules and keep blockers in, only for the Ravens to send just four pass rushers after the quarterback.
Queen’s work on “pick stunts,” whereby he helps free an interior rusher by slamming into his blocker, has also added a new path to chaos in the pocket. The blocker responsible for picking up Queen’s blitzes often can’t react quickly enough to account for the pick and Queen, who sometimes ends up bouncing to the quarterback himself.
Marcus Mosher, PFF
The Dolphins have been a much different defense since Jalen Ramsey returned to the field. And we will have an excellent matchup on Sunday, with Ramsey likely seeing a ton of Beckham. This matchup favors Ramsey, but don’t be surprised if Beckham makes a handful of clutch plays to keep the offense on schedule for Baltimore.
Since Mark Andrews went down with his ankle injury, Likely has stepped up in his starting role. He should have another strong performance in Week 17 against the Dolphins, who could be without starting safety Jevon Holland again. Likely is locked and loaded as a TE1 again this week.
Favorite bet: Ravens -3.5
The Ravens can earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win on Sunday. Expect them to do that at home against the Dolphins, who run the same offensive scheme as the 49ers. Baltimore should have no problem slowing down Miami, especially if Jaylen Waddle (high-ankle sprain) can’t play.
Vic Tafur, The Athletic
Well, the MVP race is finally over after Lamar Jackson and the Ravens stomped Brock Purdy and the 49ers on Christmas. … Right? Wait … you don’t think that just like every other proclaimed leader in the clubhouse this season, Jackson could let it slip away by losing against the soft Dolphins? The Ravens have a tough defense, but are coming off a very physical game on a short week. The Dolphins had a nice late drive to beat the Cowboys and Tua Tagovailoa has to prove it again. From a clean pocket, Tagovailoa is a top-three QB in passer rating, EPA per dropback and yards per attempt this season. When pressured, Tagovailoa ranks 20th or worse in all three categories. Give us the Dolphins flexing some muscle and Raheem Mostert (21) making a heroic bid for Priest Holmes’ record (27) for most TDs by an undrafted player.
The pick: Dolphins
Sheil Kapadia, The Ringer
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
On Extra Point Taken this week, I made the case that no other team can win in as many different ways as the Ravens. They are the only team that ranks in the top five in offensive, defensive, and special teams DVOA.
These teams are currently the top two seeds in the AFC. As things stand now, the Ravens have a 77 percent chance to earn the bye, while the Dolphins are at 22 percent, according to The New York Times playoff model. But if the Dolphins win, they’ll be the favorites for the top seed with around a 60 percent chance going into Week 18.
This game features fun matchups on both sides of the ball. We get MVP favorite Lamar Jackson against a Dolphins defense that is one of the NFL’s most-improved units. We also get Miami’s high-powered offense against a Ravens defense that just took it to the 49ers.
Like the Ravens, the Dolphins have now evolved into a team that can win in different ways. I’ll be surprised if this isn’t a competitive game. Give me the points.
The pick: Dolphins (+3.5)