Everything You Need to Know: Ravens vs. Dolphins

Pundit-Picks-Week-1

Basics

Kickoff: 1 p.m., Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.

TV: CBS Channel 13 (Baltimore), CBS crew (Andrew Catalon, James Lofton, Jay Feely); Radio WBAL (1090 AM) & 98Rock (97.9 FM), Ravens crew (Gerry Sandusky, Jarret Johnson)

Jersey color: Purple

Stakes

The Ravens enter the 2019 season as the defending AFC North champs, and the division is expected to be highly competitive again. Baltimore wants to start on a winning note against a young Miami team being revamped by new 37-year-old head coach Brian Flores, a former New England Patriots assistant.

History

Baltimore has won five of the last six regular-season meetings and holds a 7-6 lead in the all-time series. They last met in 2017, when the Ravens rolled to a 40-0 victory at M&T Bank Stadium. It’s the game where former Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso, who Miami traded last weekend, concussed sliding former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Key Storylines

Will Lamar Jackson’s improved passing carry into the regular season?

Jackson threw the ball with much more accuracy during training camp and limited preseason action. But Week 1 will have a different feel to it – more excitement, more nerves, more at stake. Jackson’s improved fundamentals will be put to the test as he opens the season not far from his hometown of Pompano Beach, Fla., with many family and friends in the stands. A strong debut by Jackson would be a confidence boost to start the season.

What will the Ravens’ new offense look like?

This will be Greg Roman’s debut as the new offensive coordinator, and it has been highly-anticipated. The Ravens kept their plays basic during the preseason, not wanting to show opponents very much. But the offense has been re-designed to take advantage of Jackson’s skillset, and he has talented new weapons like wide receivers Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Seth Roberts and running back Mark Ingram III. Baltimore hopes to unveil a more diverse offense, capable of producing big plays in a variety of ways.

Can the defense set the tone for another stellar year?

Baltimore had the NFL’s top-ranked defense in 2018, but familiar names like Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle and Za’Darius Smith have departed. This will be Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas’ debut as part of a new-look defense that wants to reestablish itself as one of the NFL’s best. A stout defensive performance in Week 1 would help set the right tone.

Key Matchups

Ravens secondary vs. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

Miami’s best chance to win is with a hot performance from Fitzpatrick. He’s capable of pulling it off, as he displayed last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when had three straight 400-yard passing games in September, giving birth to the nickname “FitzMagic.” But while Fitzpatrick is a playmaker, he also takes chances that lead to turnovers. Baltimore may have the NFL’s best secondary, featuring corners Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr and Smith, along with safeties Thomas and Tony Jefferson. If Fitzpatrick gets bold against that group, the Ravens could make him pay.

Ravens offensive line vs. Dolphins defensive line

Regardless of who starts at left guard, which is still a mystery, the Ravens want to win the battle up front, not only this week but every week. Having a consistent running game will be a key to Baltimore’s offense. The Ravens offensive line will need to control Miami rookie defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, the 13th-overall pick from Clemson.

Ravens defensive line vs. DolphinsRB Kenyon Drake_

The Ravens are carrying just five defensive linemen, but Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Patrick Ricard and rookie Daylon Mack all looked good during training camp and the preseason. Stopping Drake and making Miami one-dimensional will be a priority. No matter how hot it gets on Sunday, Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale believes the Ravens defense has enough depth and stamina to handle it.

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