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13 Ravens opponents in 13 days: Miami Dolphins

In eager anticipation of the 2013 NFL season, Baltimore Sun blogger and reporter Matt Vensel will take a daily look at one of the 13 opponents on the Ravens’ regular-season schedule. Today is the Miami Dolphins.

After traveling to Buffalo in Week 4, the Ravens will continue their tour of the AFC East in Week 5 when they take their talents to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins were an aggressive team this offseason, re-signing wide receiver Brian Hartline and throwing big bucks at former Ravens inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and former Pittsburgh Steelers wide-out Mike Wallace. So this will be an October matchup of the winners of the 2012 postseason against the winners of the 2013 offseason. I know who I like in this one.

Recapping 2012: Last season was a step forward for a Dolphins team that had a new quarterback in 2012 first-round pick Ryan Tannehill and head coach in Joe Philbin. Led by a defense that ranked seventh in the NFL in points allowed, the Dolphins went 7-9, picking up a pair of wins over playoff teams (the Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks). Tannehill showed flashes as a rookie, but the Dolphins finished 27th in scoring offense.

Cha-cha-changes: There was a revolving door during free agency. Left tackle Jake Long, cornerback Sean Smith, running back Reggie Bush and inside linebacker Karlos Dansby were among those who have signed elsewhere (Dansby was released). Meanwhile, the Dolphins splurged on Wallace and Ellerbe -- who capitalized on a strong second half and playoff run with the Ravens to cash in as a top free agent -- and brought in a busload of new players. The Dolphins also made a bold move on draft day, trading up to No. 3 overall to select Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan.

The skinny: The Dolphins obviously liked what they had seen from their team last season, because they have pushed a lot of chips into the pot for 2013. Their defense has been pretty good over the past few years and should be again in 2013 if they can find reliable starters at the cornerback position. The offense will have to be much better, though, for the Dolphins to make the playoffs. Wallace brings elite speed to the passing attack and the Dolphins like young running back Lamar Miller. But the Dolphins can only go as far as their second-year quarterback can take them.

Recent history: The Ravens haven't played the Dolphins since 2010, the last time the schedule-makers paired them with the AFC East. The Ravens won that game easily and are 3-0 against them in the John Harbaugh era, including a playoff upset in Miami in his first season as their head coach.

Degree of difficulty: We don’t know if the Dolphins will improve after opening their checkbook this offseason, or if the addition of high-price free agents will affect the performance or the chemistry of the team. But if the Dolphins are even just a little bit better than they were a year ago, they should be able to challenge the champs, especially since this will be played on the Dolphins’ home, um, turf. We’ll say five out of 10 for this one.

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