Baltimore Ravens (7-5 SU, 7-7 ATS) vs. Miami Dolphins (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date and Time: Sunday, December 7, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Sun Life Stadium
TV: CBS; DTV 708
by Vesper Abadon, Pro Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Bal +3 / Mia -3
Over/Under Total: 45
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The AFC Playoff picture is extremely tight with five teams battling for the No. 6 seed with a 7-5 record. Thanks to an ugly win on Monday Night Football, the Miami Dolphins currently sit in that spot thanks to tiebreakers. This week theyll take on one of the Baltimore Ravens, who are one of the five teams in the mix. Its a big game for both teams as the winner will greatly increase their chances of making the postseason while the loser will be knocked down a peg (and unlikely to recover).
The Ravens have won the last three matchups against the Dolphins, which includes a 26-23 win in October of last year. The Ravens begin Week 14 with the 10th-ranked offense averaging 370.6 total yards per game (YPG) and 27.3 points per game (PPG). Their passing game is 16th in the league averaging 238.8 YPG, while their rushing game comes in 5th averaging 131.8 YPG. Defensively the Ravens rank 16th holding opponents to an average of 360.2 total YPG (273.9 rushing YPG; 86.2 rushing YPG) and 20.2 PPG.
In Week 13, the Ravens lost a 34-33 heartbreaker at home to the San Diego Chargers after Philip Rivers hooked up with Eddie Royal with 38 seconds left in the game. It marked the first time the Ravens had lost at home in November since 2009, and their first-ever home loss to a West Coast team.
Despite that loss the Ravens are playing inspired football. Joe Flacco is the 13th-ranked QB in the league having gone 256 of 406 for 2,989 yards, 15 touchdowns, and five interceptions, which gives him a rating of 93.5. Steve Smith has been his top receiver with 54 receptions for 819 yards (15.2 Avg) and five touchdowns, while Torrey Smith has 38 receptions for 609 yards (16 Avg) and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, the latter hurt his right leg and knee last week and his status is questionable. Still, head coach John Harbaugh has called it nothing too serious and expects the receiver to play.
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One the ground, Justin Forsett, who is the 4th-ranked RB in the league, leads the team with 179 carries for 1,009 yards (5.6 Avg) and seven touchdowns. Given the fact that the Dolphins have allowed 200+ rushing yards in both the last two weeks, expect Forsett to play a big role on Sunday.
Speaking of the Dolphins, they ranked 2nd in defense a few weeks back but since then have dropped to 6th allowing an average of 316.8 total YPG (198.2 passing YPG; 118.6 rushing YPG) and 19.3 PPG. Offensively the Dolphins average 340.7 total YPG and 25.1 PPG, putting them 19th in the NFL. Their passing game is ranked 22nd averaging 220.3 YPG, while their rushing game is 10th averaging 120.3 YPG.
The Dolphins have played tough all season, but repeated injuries have slowed them down a bit. TE Charles Clay and CB Cortland Finnegan have missed the past couple weeks, and their presence has been sorely missed. Likewise, tackle Braden Albert tore his ACL and MCL awhile back and was place on IR, while last week C Sampson Satele left the game with a knee injury. Same with WR Brian Hartline. The Dolphins have been getting by, but they wont be able to absorb many more hits to their roster.
Vespers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Whichever team is able to show some consistency in their last four games will make the Playoffs, and I think that team will be the Ravens. The Dolphins are just too banged up and its beginning to show.
Two weeks ago they hung in their with the Denver Broncos only to let the game slip away in the fourth, and last week they barely beat one of the worst teams in the league. The play calling has been too conservative (they rarely pass downfield), and thats not going to fly if they hope to make the postseason.
I know the Dolphins have beaten the likes of the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers, but with all of their injuries theyre not the same team. If ever they need to step it up, both on the field and through aggressive play calling, now is the time. Theyre capable of winning this game, but Im just not confident theyll execute.
The Ravens are healthier overall (provided Smith will indeed be ready to go), have a good track record against the Dolphins, and seem to have more pieces in place. Toss in a +3 cushion and I like them to go into Miami and cover the spread.