Over the next month, I’ll take a look at the top Ravens games of 2016, why they figure to be so significant, and what the outcome is likely to be. My rankings are based upon rivalry, probable playoff implications (with an emphasis on divisional games), and national television audiences.
Let’s get started.
No. 10: Week 13 vs. Miami
All-time record against (regular season and playoffs): 7-6 (5-6, 2-0)
Most recent game: Dolphins 15, Ravens 13 (December 6, 2015)
Significance: Of the 31 teams the Ravens have played in their history, the Dolphins are 1 of 12 to have a winning regular season record against Baltimore. Though, the series has been as closely contested as a series can be.
In the 11 regular season games between these two teams, the Ravens have outscored the Dolphins, 198-197. In terms of total points, no other opponent has played Baltimore as closely as Miami has.
Being that this game will take place in the fourth quarter of the season, it’s likely to be a battle for an AFC wildcard spot. Both these teams have been looking up at their respective division winners as of late. Yet, anyone who’s seen the Ravens play under John Harbaugh knows 5-11 was an aberration.
As for the Dolphins, they’re set to turn things around as well. In the last six months, the team named Adam Gase as their next head coach, signed Mario Williams (96 career sacks), and drafted the best prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft (Laremy Tunsil).
Key match-ups: Marshal Yanda vs. Ndamukong Suh and Jimmy Smith vs. Jarvis Landry
They’re also durable. Yanda played each of Baltimore’s 78 offensive snaps in last year’s game, while Suh played 69 of Miami’s 78 defensive snaps. Suh recorded just two tackles, but helped limit Baltimore to 94 yards rushing on 26 carries and put continuous pressure on quarterback Matt Schaub.
When you come across a match-up like this one, you can rest assured you’re going to see football played at it’s purest form.
Another probable match-up to keep an eye on when the Dolphins have the ball involves Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who will likely draw Baltimore’s top cornerback, Jimmy Smith.
When these two teams met last year, Landry had a meager two receptions for five yards. That stat is remarkable, considering at the conclusion of last year, Landry set an NFL record for most receptions in a player’s first two seasons (194).
Smith hasn’t had that kind of personal success, as he’s been battling injury issues since he’s entered the league in 2011. But the six-year veteran has been far from a bust as a Ravens. Smith started every game of the season last year, after starting only eight games in 2015.
Similar to Landry, Smith had a poor game when the Ravens played the Dolphins last year (zero tackles), but had one of his best seasons to date (54 tackles, 10 passes defensed, three interceptions). He has potential to be an excellent corner, as his size and goal line stand in Super Bowl XLVII would indicate.
Prediction: Ravens 21, Dolphins 20