Armando Salguero

Five things to look for: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens

The Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso, top, and Ndamukong Suh, bottom, stop the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick in the final seconds last Sunday to preserve the victory in the most recent of four consecutive games that have gone down to the final moments.
The Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso, top, and Ndamukong Suh, bottom, stop the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick in the final seconds last Sunday to preserve the victory in the most recent of four consecutive games that have gone down to the final moments. adiaz@miamiherald.com

1 This is going to be a close one: We know the Miami Dolphins haven’t been blowing anyone out and generally don’t get blown out, either. In the past four games, the Dolphins needed a kickoff-return touchdown in the final minutes to beat New York, an interception-return TD in the final couple of minutes to beat San Diego, two offensive scores in the final four minutes to win at Los Angeles and a defensive stand in the final seconds to beat San Francisco. Well, the Ravens also play everyone close. All but two of their games were one-score affairs late in the fourth quarter, regardless of whether Baltimore won or lost.

2 Facing Joe Flacco might be a relief: The Dolphins have shown they struggle against highly mobile quarterbacks. Russell Wilson, Tyrod Taylor and, last week Colin Kaepernick, gave them fits when they got out of the pocket. Those players multiplied the damage to the Dolphins from the QB spot when they ran and also threw the football well. Well, Flacco is many things but a running quarterback is not one of them. Indeed, this season Flacco has struggled even from the pocket, throwing 11 TDs and 10 interceptions. The fact he won’t often leave the pocket helps the Dolphins.

3 The Miami offensive line heals: The Dolphins have played the past six quarters of football with at least two starters and often three starters missing from the five-man offensive line. And although center Mike Pouncey will not be playing against the Ravens, the Dolphins are hopeful both left tackle Branden Albert and left guard Laremy Tunsil will play despite their various injuries. The Dolphins need the help in the run game, but the truth is the team has protected quarterback Ryan Tannehill well enough even with a makeshift offensive line. Tannehill has been sacked 2.3 times per game this season on average. That’s the lowest average since his rookie year in 2012.

4 The Ravens receivers are motivated: So Mike Wallace denies it, but he had this game circled on his calendar for a while after he was traded by the Dolphins two years ago — sending his life plans into a state of uncertainty. After failing in Minnesota, Wallace has regained his footing in Baltimore and is on pace for a 1,000-yard season. Teammate Breshad Perriman is motivated for this one because, even though he was born in Georgia, his father hails from Miami and there are many family members still in the area he wants to impress. Steve Smith? The NFL’s No. 8 leading receiver in yards is always motivated. He plays with passion every game. The question is can the Miami secondary match up, not only physically, but emotionally?

5 Will DeVante Parker play? The Miami passing game simply isn’t the same when Parker either doesn’t play or plays hurt. We have seen that early in the season. The question is can Parker, who left last Sunday’s game against San Francisco with a back injury, rally after not practicing most of the week and be active for this game? The Ravens are very good against the pass, ranking sixth in passing yards allowed per game and fifth in interceptions. The Dolphins would rather not have to face that accomplished unit without one of their best players.

Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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