MIAMI DOLPHINS (4-2) AT BALTIMORE RAVENS (3-4)
SERIES HISTORY: 13th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 6-6. The Ravens won the last meeting, 38-6, last season. QB Joe Flacco threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns as the Ravens ended the Dolphins' six-game winning streak. These teams are very familiar as this is the fifth consecutive year they've met. The Ravens have won three of the last four meetings.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Miami's running game will be the focus. Running back Jay Ajayi and the offensive line must take pressure off quarterback Matt Moore, starting his first game because Jay Cutler is out with fractured ribs. It would help Miami establish the physical presence against the NFL's worst run defense (145.3 yards per game).
The Ravens need to jump out to an early lead because they are not built to play from behind. Flacco might be limited with throwing downfield because of injuries to several of his receivers. So, Flacco might be reduced to picking up yards with screens and intermediate passes. He cannot afford a turnover. The Ravens need to establish the run to take some pressure off Flacco. The Dolphins, however, are stout up front and will try to force Flacco to beat them. The key to this game could be field position.
Miami, which is 10th (308.2 yards per game) in total defense, is becoming adept at shutting down the run and allowing its pass rush, led by DE Cam Wake (6.0 sacks), to take over. Look for Miami to start with an eight-man front early to stop the run.
If Baltimore has success on the ground, the Dolphins will have a long night.
The Ravens are at their best when they force turnovers. Baltimore has managed just four turnovers in their four losses and 11 in their wins. The Ravens will look to keep Moore under pressure. The key will be shutting down Ajayi, but Baltimore's run defense has allowed more than 100 yards in the past five games.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Ravens LT Ronnie Stanley vs. Dolphins DE Cameron Wake. Stanley is the anchor of an offensive line that has been ravaged by injuries. Quarterback Joe Flacco, who missed all of training camp with an ailing back, has been sacked 17 times. Wake has been a force for Miami and is tied for 10th in the NFL with six sacks. Miami will look to keep Flacco under constant pressure to force mistakes, with Wake leading the charge.
--Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi vs. Ravens DT Brandon Williams. Williams was back in the lineup Sunday against the Vikings after missing four games with a foot injury. Baltimore allowed 169.5 yards per game and went 1-3 when Williams was out. Even with Williams able to play, the Vikings ran for 169 yards on 33 carries. Williams and the rest of the offensive line could face a bigger challenge against Ajayi, who is averaging 73.7 yards per game. Ajayi was held out of practice this week with knee and elbow issues. Miami will look to establish an effective running game, especially with short week and going on the road.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Dolphins QB Matt Moore. Moore will be making his first start of the season in a Thursday night road game, so the degree of difficulty gets raised slightly. Moore did a good job last week in relief of Jay Cutler (ribs). The big concern is whether he'll be loose with the ball. He was good last season (9 TDs, 4 INTs, including playoffs) and wasn't bad last week (2 TDs, 1 INT). Otherwise, Moore's let-it-rip attitude might be just what this offense needed.
FAST FACTS: Dolphins QB Matt Moore came off the bench when Jay Cutler was injured last week and threw two TD passes, finished with a 102.9 rating. In his past six starts on the road, Moore collected 15 passing TDs vs. 3 INTs. ... RB Jay Ajay totaled 207 yards from scrimmage (103.5 per game) in the past two games. ... WR Jarvis Landry caught passes for 93 yards and a TD last week and seeks fourth straight week with a TD catch. ... DE Cameron Wake made 2.5 sacks last week and has at least two in 16 games since entering the league in 2009, tied for fourth among active players. ... S Reshad Jones has caught an interception in two of the last three meetings. ... Ravens QB Joe Flacco has completed 117 of 162 (72.2 percent) for 1,417 yards, nine TDs and three INTs in the past five meetings. He completed 36 of 47 (76.6 percent) for 381 yards, four TDs and one INT in his last game vs. Miami. ... WR Mike Wallace had 15 TD catches in two seasons with Miami (2013-14). ... TE Benjamin Watson has 463 career catches, sixth most among active TEs. ... LB C.J. Mosley has 46 tackles (11.5 per game) in his past four at home. He is one of three NFL players with 400 tackles (401), five sacks (7) and five INTs (7) since entering the league in 2014. ... S Eric Weddle has an interception in two of the past three games at home. ... LB Terrell Suggs has 8.5 sacks and a pick-six in the past seven meetings.
PREDICTION: The Dolphins are changing quarterbacks due to injury (again) and Ravens QB Joe Flacco is running out of targets. If Miami can run the clock and gain yards with Jay Ajayi running and receiving it might make Flacco's lack of familiar targets moot. But the call here is for the Ravens to get a needed victory at home.
OUR PICK: Ravens, 32-28.
-- Frank Cooney