This week’s Thursday Night Football matchup takes us to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD, where the (3-4) Baltimore Ravens will take on the (4-2) Miami Dolphins (8.25pm ET).
The worst thing that any NFL team can experience is the loss of their starting quarterback and unfortunately for the Dolphins, with Jay Cutler injured, they are now having to go through this twice.
Formerly working for FOX Sports, Cutler spent the bulk of his career with the Chicago Bears. He was lured out of retirement when Miami’s starting QB Ryan Tannehill suffered a devastating and season-ending injury during a preseason practice. It was a noncontact injury that required surgery and left the Dolphins in need of a new man under center. That man was the 34-year-old Cutler.
In six games this year, Cutler has been a little above average, throwing for just 995 yards, seven touchdowns, five interceptions and a 35.0 QBR which is the second worst of his 12 year career. Unspectacular numbers aside however, Cutler has been good for the Dolphins. He’s been consistent and hasn’t made too many costly mistakes, overall helping Miami keep pace in the highly contested AFC East.
Losing Cutler is a blow to the Dolphins and their playoff chances this year but it’s not an insurmountable one. The Dolphins will look to Matt Moore, who has been with them in a backup role since 2011, to take over for the next month or two until Cutler can return. Moore played well filling in for Cutler last week, leading Miami to two touchdowns and 188 yards through the air. He will face a better passing defense in the Ravens, ranked 11tht compared to the 23rd ranked New York Jets who the Dolphins beat last week, but the real caveat for the Dolphins will be Baltimore’s rushing defense.
Jay Ajayi vs the Baltimore Run Defense
On the season, the Ravens rank dead last in the NFL when it comes to defending against the run. The Ravens are the only team to have given up over 1,000 yards on the ground through their first seven games and their average of 145.3 yards per game is also the worst in the league. The Ravens rank 23rd in yards allowed per carry at 4.4.
On Thursday night they will be facing Miami’s rushing attack which features the league’s seventh ranked back in terms of total yards, Jay Ajayi. In his third season in the NFL and third with the Dolphins, Ajayi is on pace for a career year. Coming into this game, Ajayi has 442 yards and an average of 3.5 yards per carry. Overall, he averages about 74 yards per game.
Against the Ravens, Ajayi could have his breakout game of the season. With Moore stepping in for Cutler, look for Ajayi to be a big featured part of the offense in this matchup and going forward, whether on straight called runs or play-action and screens. In addition to runs, Ajayi has caught 10 passes this year for 49 yards, an average of 4.9 yards per catch.
Are the Ravens Headed in the Wrong Direction?
The Ravens used to be one of the better defensive teams in football, but this year they are struggling mightily. It’s a big sign that this team, that isn’t so far removed from winning the Super Bowl, really seems to be headed in the opposite direction this year.
Baltimore opened the season 2-0 and looked like once again they would be competing neck-and-neck with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North crown. Allowing just 10 points in their opening two contests, the Ravens also boasted one of the league’s best defenses. Then the wheels just seemed to fall off as Baltimore traveled to England and gave up 44 points in the Jacksonville Jaguars in a lopsided 44-7 loss. The Ravens returned stateside to lose three of their next four, giving up 26, 27 and 24 points respectively.
No one quite knows what happened but at some point Baltimore’s defense just collapsed and their offense unfortunately has not been that far behind.
A former Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco is really having trouble this year, thanks in part to one of the league’s worst offensive lines, which allowed five sacks on the 10-year veteran. Flacco hasn’t been able to get anything going and has just five touchdowns in seven games compared to eight interceptions and two fumbles. He has a rating of just 70 and QBR of 27.7, which is the worst of any QB who doesn’t play for the Cleveland Browns.
Against the Dolphins it is unlikely Flacco will break out of this funk because three of his top receivers are expected to miss the game. Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman were both absent in last week’s loss and Mike Wallace also missed part of that game after he left with a concussion. The team is so thin on depth that only the New York Giants, who lost three receivers in one game, are really playing with a more patch-worked offense this year.
Our preview’s Dolphins vs Ravens Stats, Picks & Betting Predictions
- The Dolphins are 13-5 in their last 18 games overall
- The Ravens have won seven of the last 10 meetings and have gone 8-2 ATS
- The Dolphins are 0-7 ATS in their last seven games against the Ravens
- The Ravens are 7-14-1 ATS in their last 22 home games
- The Dolphins are 3-12 ATS in their last 15 games at night
As you can see, the Ravens have really had the Dolphins’ number over the past several years but the difference this year is that ever since the third week of the season, we are witnessing a much worse Baltimore team. That being said, the Ravens are three point favorites at home with all the major online American sports betting sites.
- Our preview’s pick is for a Dolphins win on the road as Ajayi should run all over the Ravens’ horrible rush defense. The option we like here is to take Miami +3pts @ +105 with 5Dimes Sportsbook.
- As for the total points prediction, it’s projected at just 37.5pts, which if the under hits, would make this the lowest scoring game in the history of Thursday Night Football. Fortunately, TNF games have hit the over five of seven times this season and this week’s should be no different. It’s tough to recover defensively on a short week so look for the total to exceed the 37.5 points projected @ best odds of -108 with Bookmaker.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.