The Miami Dolphins begin what many believe will be a doomed season when they host the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. Game time is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, September 8 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Fans in local markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
According to our Week 1 odds, the Ravens are 6.5-point road favorites in Miami. The over/under for the game is 37.5 points.
The Dolphins are telling anyone who will listen that they aren’t tanking the 2019 season. However, the team parted ways with a number of veterans during the offseason and training camp, giving them a roster full of young and unproven players. Just in the past week, the likes of Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, and Kiko Alonso have all been traded despite those moves surely hurting the Dolphins in the short-term.
Nevertheless, new Miami head coach Brian Flores says the team is trying to win in 2019. But it’s hard to envision the Dolphins remaining competitive given the players they’ve traded away and the obvious youth movement on their roster. Of course, only time will tell.
As for the Ravens, they are undoubtedly trying to win in 2019. Baltimore won the AFC North last season after winning six of their final seven games behind rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. Of course, the Ravens suffered a disappointing playoff loss at home, creating just a little bit of doubt whether the new offense with Jackson can remain sustainable and help the Ravens compete at a championship level.
But the Ravens and John Harbaugh seem committed to Jackson and their new offense. Baltimore is also in a perfect spot to get off to a fast start in 2019. They play the Dolphins and Cardinals the first two weeks of the season before the schedule becomes a little more difficult. Of course, there’s no such thing as an easy road game in the NFL.
Honestly, this game is not the slam dunk most people probably think it is. I could certainly make an argument that the Dolphins could keep this game close and beat the spread. In fact, if the spread was over a touchdown, I would probably lean toward Miami. But the Dolphins have too many problems to ignore and the Ravens aren’t going to take anything for granted in Week 1. That makes me comfortable eating the points and taking the Ravens to cover.
First, let’s talk about Miami’s chances. For starters, they won six of their eight home games last season, which can’t be ignored. The Dolphins can be particularly tough at home early in the season, as they are more accustomed to the Florida heat than their opponent. We’ve seen that show up in the fourth quarter of games, helping the Dolphins come from behind.
Also, the decision to start Ryan Fitzpatrick over Josh Rosen at quarterback actually supports the team’s position that they’re trying to win this year. While Rosen should get a look at some point, Fitzpatrick gives them an experienced quarterback who has played well at times. Just a year ago, he had Tampa’s offense humming the first few weeks of the season, so he’s not exactly a lost cause.
That being said, the Dolphins just don’t have enough around Fitzpatrick for him to succeed. Trading away Stills was a huge hit to Miami’s receiving corps. The Dolphins are also relying heavily on running back Kenyan Drake, who has potential but hasn’t spent much time as a feature back in the NFL. On top of that, trading Tunsil on the eve of the season and losing Ja’Wuan James in free agency puts the team’s offensive line in a bad spot.
The caveat is that we can’t be 100% sure the Baltimore defense will be akin to the Baltimore defenses of old. The likes of C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, and Eric Weddle all gone from last year’s team, so there has been a lot of turnover on that side of the ball. The biggest question is whether the Ravens can rush the quarterback the way they have in the past. Even with a modest group of receivers, Fitzpatrick is capable of doing damage if his makeshift offensive line holds up and he gets time in the pocket.
Finally, I do have some concern about Jackson as a passer. Not only did he struggle with accuracy last year, but he doesn’t have standout receivers. However, I do like the Baltimore offense in this matchup. The Ravens should have no problem running the ball behind Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. Obviously, Jackson is a huge threat in the running game as well. With the Dolphins trading away Alonso, Miami’s linebackers could be exposed against a team that runs the ball as well as Baltimore. That could end up being the difference in the game.
As always, you have to be careful about taking road favorites in the NFL. There’s a decent chance the Dolphins won’t be the pushover in this game most think they are. However, the Ravens have enough strengths to take advantage of Miami’s weaknesses, some of which have been self-inflicted by their trades over the past week. As long as the spread is less than a touchdown, I feel good picking the Ravens to cover.