Thursday Night Preview: Can the Miami Dolphins Move to 5-2 With a New Quarterback?
We have been treated to some great games recently on Thursday Night Football, but that may not be the case this week.
The Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens are set to square off, and both teams are pretty far down our current power rankings. The Ravens currently check in at 24th, while the Dolphins -- who are fresh off a comeback with a new quarterback under center -- are even lower at 27th.
After Cutler exited last week's game with several broken ribs, Moore relieved him and put together an impressive performance. He dropped back to pass 22 times -- his only attempts this season -- and made them count. It's a small sample size, but among quarterbacks with at least 20 drop backs, Moore ranks fifth in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.27). In terms of Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs which result in a positive NEP -- his 50.00% mark is tied for fifth.
On the other side of this matchup is Joe Flacco, who has not been elite this season. Among quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs, he ranks second-worst in Passing NEP per drop back (-0.16) and third-worst in Passing Success Rate (39.83%).
Part of Flacco's struggles arise from the lack of a deep ball. Looking at the NFL's Next-Gen Stats, Flacco ranks second-worst in average intended air yards (IAY) at 6.8 yards per attempt. (For some context, Jameis Winston leads the league with a mark of 11.3 IAY.) Among that same group of quarterbacks, Flacco's yards-per-attempt (YPA) mark of 5.31 is the worst, and it's a full 1.5 yards lower than his career average of 6.8.
Running Back Play
In Baltimore, Alex Collins and Buck Allen have been splitting the backfield workload, and Allen seems to be the more efficient back. Among 38 running backs with 50 carries or more, Allen ranks 14th in Rushing NEP per play (-0.03). He's also been a factor in the passing game, evidenced by his 31 catches.
Despite Allen's effectiveness, Collins was the lead rusher last week, toting the rock 10 times. He has not been as efficient, though, ranking 25th in Rushing NEP per carry (-0.08). His 36.59% Rushing Success Rate also falls behind Allen (43.55%), which further displays how much better Allen has been.
Jay Ajayi was an absolute boss in 2016 with 1,272 rushing yards, but he has struggled a bit this season. Among that group of 38 rushers with 50-plus carries, the Dolphins running back ranks 31st in Rushing NEP per play (-0.12), but has been slightly better in terms of Rushing Success Rate (20th -- 36.80%).
Defense is one area both of these teams excel -- Baltimore is ranked 11th and Miami is slightly behind them at 13th, per our metrics.
What's interesting is that they're opposites in terms of strengths and weaknesses -- Baltimore ranks 6th against the pass and 21st against the run, while Miami ranks 24th against the pass and 2nd against the run.
In looking at Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, which displays sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent, both teams can get after the quarterback. The Dolphins have sacked the opposing quarterback 15 times on their way to an an Adjusted Sack Rate of 8.0%, ranking 11th. The Ravens, strengthened by their 16 sacks, fall in just behind them at 14th in Adjusted Sack Rate (7.5%).
According to our models, there are five contests that correlate with this game greater than 90% of the time, but the one most like this matchup had these same Ravens against the Buffalo Bills in October 2007.
The Ravens hit the road in this one, looking to move to 5-2 and cement themselves as division leaders. Quarterback Kyle Boller really struggled, throwing for only 191 yards and a score. For the Bills, Marshawn Lynch provided plenty of offensive pop, rushing for 84 yards and a score to grab a 19-14 win.
In tonight's matchup, the home Bills reprise the role of the Ravens, meaning that we could see a cover of the under and the spread for the home Ravens.
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