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NFL 2017 Week 8: Miami Dolphins vs Baltimore Ravens preview and prediction

Thursday Night Football sees the Dolphins and Ravens clash in a key matchup that could decide the fate of playoff hopes


Miami’s Week 7 win over New York was far tougher than expected, but at least it was a win this time rather than their Week 3 defeat at MetLife. Josh McCown put the Dolphins defense to the test early, but the offense was able to keep pace in the first half. However, by the fourth quarter they were down 14 points and were in the hands of backup quarterback Matt Moore due to a rib injury to Jay Cutler. Two touchdowns to Kenny Stills and a late interception that put them in field goal range handed them a 31-28 win.

Baltimore’s defense did what it could, but a woeful lack of offense condemned the Ravens to a 24-16 defeat in Minnesota. A 2.4-yard difference in yards per play tells the story, as the Vikings were able to keep the ball and make drives, but rigid red zone defense forced six kicks from Kai Forbath, while the Ravens offense struggled consistently and only found the end zone in garbage time right at the end of the game.

Matt Moore fighting for the starting job

With Jay Cutler out, Matt Moore once again has an opportunity to showcase his talents. After his impressive work in relief of Ryan Tannehill last year it was a bit of a head-scratcher when Jay Cutler was brought in this summer following another Tannehill injury. In his time as a Dolphin, Cutler has been extremely underwhelming, throwing seven touchdowns to five interceptions with a horrific 5.1 yards per attempt.

After his impressive play on Sunday, Moore has a chance to show he deserves the starting job for the rest of the season as he takes on a tough defense. Baltimore are allowing a passer rating of just 70.6 (3rd) and only 189 passing yards per game (7th) this season, but a good game from Moore will not only likely hand the Dolphins a win but also give him the #1 spot for the rest of the year.

Someone has to step up

Mike Wallace leads the Ravens in receiving yards with 248. He is likely out tonight with a concussion. Ben Watson is second with 214 yards. He is likely out with a knee problem. Jeremy Maclin is third with 159 yards. He has missed the last two games and is likely out again tonight. They join Danny Woodhead, Kenneth Dixon, and Terrance West on the sidelines, leaving Joe Flacco with basically no one to throw to. Someone has to find separation and grab their opportunity to play.

Red zone differences

Baltimore’s red zone defense is among the best in the NFL. Opponents are scoring touchdowns on just 38.1% of red zone trips, meanwhile Miami are one of the leakiest in the league, giving up touchdowns on 71.4% of red zone stands. That difference is what could end up costing Miami given their own offensive uncertainty and Baltimore’s usually ineffective unit. If Miami are kicking field goals regularly and Baltimore are getting the odd touchdown then it will be an extremely close game.

Matchup to Watch: Jay Ajayi vs CJ Mosley

The Miami running back has not been in great form in 2017, and comes in with both left knee and elbow problems. He has just two games of more than 100 yards and is managing just 3.5 yards per carry this season. On the flip side of that, Baltimore’s monstrous middle linebacker leads the NFL in tackles so far and has been key to keeping the run defense above water during the absences of Brandon Williams and other key defensive linemen. Their battle will go a long way to deciding this game.

Fantasy Tip: Miami K Cody Parkey

There will be a lot of field goals in this one, making Parkey a good choice if you are looking to find a bye week kicker. Baltimore’s defensive qualities along with their offensive ineptitude should give Parkey a lot of opportunities to rack points up.

Betting Tip: Under 37.5

I don’t often recommend the points total, but this one has low-scoring written all over it. Two shaky offenses and Thursday Night Football is not often a good recipe for points. I’d take this as well as Miami’s +3.

Prediction: Dolphins 20 – 13 Ravens

Low scoring and yet one sided, that’s how I see this one going. Baltimore will lean on the run and special teams, but it won’t be enough. Matt Moore is an extremely efficient and sensible quarterback but he’s not afraid to take shots at the right time, and that factor, along with a vastly superior set of skill players, will see the Dolphins through.



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Toby Durant

A passionate and opinionated writer, I am currently the NFL editor for RealSport. However, I also contribute to F1, WWE, Football, and other sections of the site, and I have covered the NFL International Series for RealSport and previously contributed to SB Nation.

 

I also have 10 years playing and coaching experience in American football, starting at the University of Nottingham and including a stint as defensive coordinator at Oxford Brookes University. I may be a Patriots fan but all aspects of the sport interest me, from guard play to special teams.

NFL 2017 Week 8: Miami Dolphins vs Baltimore Ravens preview and prediction

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