Here’s a look at the key matchup and what’s at stake in Sunday’s Ravens-Dolphins game in Miami, plus what’s on the radar in the NFL entering Week 1:
The Ravens’ pass rush versus Miami’s pass protection. The Ravens lost two of their top pass rushers from a year ago through free agency in outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith. In four preseason games, the Ravens couldn’t get a consistent pass rush from their front four, but that might change against Miami. Look for the Ravens to blitz or pressure Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick early. Miami is expected to start two rookies on the offensive line in guards Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun, so the Ravens will be looking to confuse them quickly and not allow them any time to settle in. Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale will use a lot of different fronts, including moving outside linebackers Pernell McPhee, Matthew Judon and Tyus Bowser along the line of scrimmage. The Ravens will probably also blitz safety Tony Jefferson often on passing situations.
What’s at stake
Miami is opening the season at home with a new head coach in Brian Flores, the former linebackers coach for the New England Patriots. The team is already in disarray, which is nothing new for Miami. The Dolphins have become a revolving door, with players coming and going quite frequently. The regular season hasn’t started and they haven’t shown any stability. The Ravens want to continue their upward trend after winning six of their last seven regular-season games in 2018. They revamped the offense around the versatility of second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens want to set a winning tone early. It’s hard winning the season opener, and there is a lot of pressure because teams invest so much time in drafting and building their rosters during the offseason. The winner of this game gets great satisfaction, while the loser has to wait at least another week to win. Losing makes for another long week.
On the radar
The New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game Sunday night is the game everyone wants to see. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, 42, has to become ineffective one day, doesn’t he? Really. It will be interesting to see how the Steelers respond from last season, when they failed to make the playoffs. As long as Pittsburgh has quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers can never be counted out. Brady has owned Pittsburgh. He is 8-3 against the Steelers during the regular season and 3-0 in the playoffs. The Patriots will probably win again.