Ravens run offense vs. Dolphins run defense: In two meetings in 2008, the Ravens beat the Dolphins with a dominating run game. With Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain, their ground attack totaled 290 yards on 69 carries. In three home games this season, Ray Rice has averaged 95 yards. Miami, which is tied for 11th against the run, has been solid against the AFC North the past two weeks. The Dolphins contained Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall (37 yards rushing on 15 carries) and Cincinnati's Cedric Benson (69 yards on 20 carries). Strong safety Yeremiah Bell, Miami's leading tackler, is questionable with a toe injury. Inside linebackers Channing Crowder and Karlos Dansby are key run-stoppers.
Ravens pass offense vs. Dolphins pass defense: Joe Flacco has posted the NFL's highest passer rating (105.0) since Week 3, throwing nine touchdowns and one interception over that span. He's been equally effective at M&T Bank Stadium, where he has the league's best home passer rating (108.0). In 2008, Derrick Mason had 158 yards receiving in two meetings against Miami. Tight end Todd Heap, who is no longer listed on the injury report after the bye, has scored three touchdowns in his past two games. Over the past three weeks, the Dolphins have allowed two 300-yard passers (Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger) and five passing touchdowns. The Ravens could test Sean Smith, a 6-foot-3 cornerback who could make his first start of the season. Right tackle Marshal Yanda will look to slow down Cameron Wake, who leads Miami with 6 ½ sacks.
Dolphins run offense vs. Ravens run defense: The Dolphins' rushing attack has gone from No. 4 in 2009 to No. 16 this season. Ronnie Brown hasn't averaged more than 4 yards a carry in four straight games. Ricky Williams has been more effective, but he hasn't gained more than 64 yards in a game this season. Miami has scored just one rushing touchdown since the season opener. In 2008, neither Brown nor Williams broke a run longer than 13 yards in two games against the Ravens. It hasn't been a stellar season for the Ravens run defense, which has surprisingly fallen to No. 17 this season. Ray Lewis had a season-high 15 tackles in his last game. Brandon McKinney is expected to make his fifth straight start at defensive end.
Dolphins pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: Miami's Brandon Marshall is fourth in the NFL with 47 receptions and 10th in the league with 12 catches on third down. Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said he doesn't plan to double-team Marshall, which will put tremendous pressure on Fabian Washington. This marks Washington's first game since he allowed three touchdowns against Buffalo. The Dolphins' supporting cast of Davone Bess (39 catches) and Brian Hartline (25 receptions) is underrated and effective. It will be a challenge for a struggling Ravens pass rush to put pressure on quarterback Chad Henne, who has been sacked just 10 times. Henne has thrown an interception in five straight games. Ravens safety Ed Reed had two picks in his first game after coming off the physically-unable-to-perform list.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The best player on Miami's special teams has been Dan Carpenter, who has kicked 10 field goals the past two weeks. The Ravens' Billy Cundiff has been strong as well, making his past seven field goals (including the game-winner against Buffalo). Both teams have struggled on both return teams and kickoff coverage. The Ravens could go with Lardarius Webb on punt returns and rookie David Reed on kickoffs. Dolphins rookie Nolan Carroll, who played at Maryland, could fill in for the injured Patrick Cobbs (questionable, hamstring) on kickoffs.
INTANGIBLES: If anyone doubted the importance of this game, Marshall said this is a "defining moment" for Miami. The Dolphins are undefeated on the road this season, winning at Buffalo, Minnesota, Green Bay and Cincinnati. But the Ravens have been tougher at M&T Bank Stadium, where they've won six straight and 10 of their past 12. The Ravens have been just as impressive coming off their bye. Their 7-1 record after the bye since 2002 is the third-best in the NFL over that time. Under coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens have won both of their meetings against Miami (both in 2008) by a combined score of 54-22. The Dolphins have struggled so much in the red zone that Carpenter has scored 43 of Miami's last 61 points.
PREDICTION: The Ravens appeared to wear down in the fourth quarter in their past two games. But like so many times in the past, the bye week will rejuvenate the Ravens. Flacco and the Ravens won't let this one go to overtime.