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The Baltimore Ravens travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins on Sunday in the opener for both teams. Thes teams played each other in five straight seasons from 2013-17, with the Ravens taking four of those five games. They last played in Baltimore on 2017, with Ravens winning in a romp, 40-0.
Baltimore hopes for a repeat against a Dolphins squad that is looking towards 2020. On Sunday, Miami dealt away linebacker Kiko Alonso to New Orleans for linebacker Vince Biegel, who had become a part-time player in coach Brian Flores’ new scheme. On Saturday, they made a monster deal, trading left tackle Laremy Tunstill, WR Kenny Stills, a 2020 fourth-rounder and a 2021 sixth-round pick to Houston for a 2020 first-round pick, a 2021 first-round pick, a 2021 second-rounder, tackle Julien Davenport and cornerback Johnson Badermosi.
The Ravens were not quite as busy as they hope to get back to the playoffs under the guidance of second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Baltimore Ravens went 10-6 last season and to their first playoff appearance since 2014. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson was inserted at midseason for an injured Joe Flacco and the team basically went old school option offense. Jackson did throw for 1,201 yards with six TDs and three picks in 170 attempts, but he ran for 695 yards on 147 attempts. Jackson’s ability to run the ball allowed Gus Edwards, a 240-pound rookie, to rush for 718 yards with two TDs.
The offense should be a little more pass-heavy this season under new offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The Ravens drafted Marquise “Hollywood” Brown from Oklahoma in the first round and Miles Boykin from Notre Dame in the third to improve their speed. Considering their lack of success over the years at drafting this position (Breshad Perriman the latest), this was a bit of a gamble. Last season, they relied on slow receiver Willie Snead (62 catches for 5651 yards) and tight end Mark Andrews (34 for 552 yards). Both are b back along with second-year tight end Hayden Hurst and blocking tight end Nick Boyle.
Baltimore finished second in the NFL in rushing (152.6ypg) and fourth against the run (82.9ypg). They had the league’s number on defense but those numbers could falter some since they lost linebacker C.J. Mosley and their top pass rushers (Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith). The lost 16 combined sacks between those three players. The loss of Mosley could impact the run defense and they didn’t really replace Smith and Suggs at outside linebacker. They’ll need OLB Matthew Judon (7.0 sacks) and Tyus Bowser (former second-round pick) to step up. Fourth-year inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (5.5 sacks) has immense potential, while Kenny Young and Chris Board could rotate at the other spot.
The strength of the Ravens’ defense should be the secondary, even though they lost nickel corner Travon Young (neck) early in camp for most, if not the entire season. Marlon Humphrey has become an elite corner, while Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr are steady. Veteran free safety Earl Thomas is also an upgrade over Eric Weddle, if he can stay healthy
Brian Flores must be thrilled. The new Miami head coach and former Patriots defensive coordinator walks into a situation where he’ll have play his former team (New England) twice a year with a very questionable offensive line, a journeyman quarterback as his starter (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and ownership that “tanking for Tua”. The number one pick in 2020 might not be Tua Tagovailoa, but unless Josh Rosen saves the franchise, the Dolphins will likely be drafting another quarterback in 2020.
Rosen came over from Arizona after a disastrous season that saw him throw 14 picks with 11 TDs and record the NFL’s worst passer rating last season as a rookie. His offensive line at Arizona was putrid and well, he’ll see something similar in Miami if gets under center. The Dolphins already lost right tackle Ja’Wuan James to Denver and left guard Josh Sitton was released in the offseason. Add that to the loss of Tunsil, and this unit is a huge question mark. Even with Tunsil, who was considered one of the top young tackles in the game, the Dolphins allowed 52 sacks (fifth-most) with an athletic quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and less-athletic one in Brock Osweiler.
Both quarterbacks are gone and Fitzpatrick at 36 is certainly a stopgap, but he is athletic. “FitzMagic” completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 2,366 yards with 17 TDs and 12 picks for Tampa Bay last season. Unfortunately, he won’t have the same type of weapons in Miami, veteran Danny Amendola (59 for 575 yards) was the leading receiver last season and he’s gone. DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant are serviceable receivers, though Parker could be the best of a mediocre lot. RB Kenyan Drake (535 yards) is a very dangerous receiver, who finished second on the team with 53 catches for 477 yards and five TDs last season.
Defensively, they struggled against the pass (245.ypg, 21st) and the run (145.3ypg, 31st). The good news is that they ranked second in interceptions, so they did a good job of forcing turnovers. The defense should improve some with Flores and new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham taking over a team that allowed the most yards in team history (6,257). First-round pick Christian Wilkins should help a defense that will be multiple, switching from 4-3 to 3-4 depending on the matchup or situation. But they have to replace their best players up front in Ndamukong Suh, Robert Quinn (6.5 sacks), Cameron Wake (6.0 sacks) and Andre Branch (1.5 sacks). This will really test the strength of the team, which is the secondary led by Xavien Howard, who led the league with seven interceptions last season
The Chargers did a nice job preparing for Lamar Jackson in the playoffs, but they had just seen him two weeks before. Nobody really knows what to expect from Jackson, the rookie receivers, rookie running back Justice Hill and Mark Ingram. Hill and Brown have exceptional speed and when you add Jackson’s explosiveness and Roman’s play-calling (he was OC at San Francisco when Colin Kaepernick was effective), this is going to be a very difficult offense to figure out. Now if they see them the in the playoffs, they’ll have a better shot, but that’s not happening. Take the road team in a romp.Prediction: Baltimore -7Click here to bet this pick RISK FREE for up to $1,000 with PointsBet®!Second Opinion on this pick from StatSalt.com