With both teams in the thick of the AFC playoff race, this Thursday night matchup has a lot of potential implications down the line. However if you’re a fan of high scoring affairs, this doesn’t project to be a game for you. This game does have the potential to come down to the very end and will likely come down to which offense is able to get a passing attack going.
After Ryan Tannehill’s 2017 season ended before it began, many felt the Dolphins would still be serviceable with Matt Moore at the helm. That chance didn’t come as head coach Adam Gase called Jay Cutler out of retirement which relegated Moore to clipboard duties once again. Now with Cutler nursing a rib injury, Moore has a chance to start and with strong performances could take over for the rest of the season. The bad news for Moore is that the Ravens defense has been extremely stingy through the air. When Moore did start last season, he targeted Jarvis Landry early and often. That once again figures to be the case this week.
Oftentimes Landry is used for his ability to create after the catch, so in this one don’t be surprised if the Dolphins try some screens or drag routes just to get him in space. Expected to see 10 to 12 targets, he should be started in all formats. Kenny Stills comes into this one riding a two game stretch where he has caught 10 of his 13 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns. Even if he sees six or seven targets in this one, Stills is usually big-play dependent for fantasy purposes so it could be a risk for some fantasy players. It has been reported that DeVante Parker will try and play in this one after an ankle injury has kept him out the past few weeks. With limited practice time, he would also make for a risky fantasy play if he suits up. Julius Thomas has a favorable matchup in this one, but with no previous rapport with Moore and just 15 catches through six games, he makes for a very risky tight end option for fantasy players.
The Dolphins best chance in this one will be to get Jay Ajayi going. While the running game has been inconsistent this year, Ajayi has seen 25+ touches in his previous three games (all Dolphin wins) and faces a Ravens defensive front that has been gashed by the run of late. Figuring another big workload is in store, Ajayi needs to be locked into all fantasy lineups this week.
Despite a favorable matchup against the Dolphin secondary, Joe Flacco can’t be trusted from a fantasy perspective for this matchup. After a back injury which likely still lingers limited his offseason, Flacco has seen injuries to both his receivers and offensive line which haven’t helped his cause. To this point he has yet to throw for more than 235 yards in a game and his 6.5 yard average depth of target ranks last among qualifying quarterbacks.
Due to his usage as a receiver, Javorius “Buck” Allen is the Ravens running back to have faith in for fantasy purposes. With 39 targets, Allen’s targets lead the team and should see at least a handful of carries against a Dolphins defense that has struggled with the run the past few weeks. Technically the Ravens lead back, Alex Collins has really impressed so far on a per carry basis averaging 5.9 yard an attempt. However, he isn’t much of a threat in the passing game and has yet to see more than 15 touches in a game despite the efficiency.
There are a lot of questions facing who will be catching Flacco’s pass attempts on this short week. None of which despite a decent matchup should be getting fantasy consideration due to the risk. Jeremy Maclin has missed the past few weeks with injury, and since he at least got a practice in this week might be the most likely option to play. Depending on who else is active, Maclin could see double digit targets. Mike Wallace was concussed less than a week ago so him playing seems highly unlikely, and there is also concern about Ben Watson’s status after the team went out and signed an extra tight end. Breshad Perriman could end up having to start this one but so far this season has 26 yards on four receptions despite being targeted 18 times. These injuries could result in Michael Campanaro and Nick Boyle having expanded roles which might have Raven fans clamoring for the days of Randy Hymes and Darnell Dinkins.
Overall, I’m expecting this game to be close, but it likely won’t be aesthetically pleasing. The Ravens are a team with a lot of pride, so despite the offensive limitations they won’t roll over in front of their home crowd. At the end of the day , I have more faith in the Dolphin offensive supporting cast, which makes them the pick here. My prediction is Dolphins 21 Ravens (-3.5) 16.