The Ravens travel to Miami to face the Dolphins week 1- an opponent against which they have had lots of recent success. The Dolphins recently started preparing for the future rather than the now by trading away one of the better young tackles in the NFL, Laremy Tunsil, for a valuable haul of draft picks. This shows that at least on an organizational level, trying to win in 2019 is not as high a priority for them as winning in 2021 and beyond. This gives the Ravens a very favorable matchup in week 1 that they should take advantage of.
You might expect that one of the favorites to earn the first overall pick wouldn’t have many strengths, and you would be right. Their greatest “strength” is the biggest wildcard on their roster- quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick recklessly attacked opposing defenses last season, finishing with an NFL leading 8.81 net yards per attempt. He threw for a first down on 45.9% of attempts, which also lead the league. However, Fitz spent time on the bench for a reason. He had an interception rate of 4.9%, which was also the highest in the NFL, and the weapons he will have in Miami are far worse than what he had in Tampa Bay. The Ravens’ defense will be much tougher to crack than the weaker ones of the NFC South, and Ravens fans should not worry about seeing the type of carnage that New Orleans saw on week 1 a year ago.
The Dolphins’ weaknesses are numerous. Aside from the possibility of a hot streak from their quarterback, they aren’t expected to do anything very well. What they did especially poorly last season was defend against the pass and defend their quarterback. Despite the hype that cornerback Xavien Howard got for his 7 interceptions, it didn’t come in the context of contributing to a halfway decent pass defense. The Dolphins allowed 7.3 yards per pass play on defense, which was ahead of only the Raiders. Miami’s offensive line, despite the presence of Laremy Tunsil, allowed sacks on 10.3% of dropbacks in 2018, which was 3rd in the NFL. The Dolphins did make a very important upgrade towards fixing that- ditching Ryan Tannheill- but the loss of their left tackle should ensure that their O-line remains well below average.
Dolphins receivers vs Earl Thomas and Marlon Humphrey: The top 3 receivers on the Dolphins depth chart are DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, and Albert Wilson. None of these receivers reached even 400 yards last season. Thomas, Humphrey, and the rest of the secondary should stop them from getting open an prevent Miami from moving the ball effectively.
Kenyan Drake vs Chris Board and Patrick Onwuasor: I needed to stretch a bit to find this, but the Ravens’ linebacker corps isn’t the strongest unit on their team following the departure of CJ Mosley. Dolphins’ running back Kenyan Drake is actually their leading receiver that they return from last season, and could pose problems for the Ravens in the underneath passing game.
Betting Line and Prediction
The Ravens are currently 7 point favorites in Miami according to the Vegas Insider consensus, but I expect the score to be more lopsided than that. The Ravens defense has a history of feasting on inferior offenses, and if the Dolphins didn’t look like that before, they certainly look like that now. Ravens 24, Dolphins 10.