The Baltimore Ravens will encounter the lowly Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football. The expected result would send the Ravens to an impressive 7-2 and on the prowl for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Dolphins will unfortunately be without their starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the second consecutive week and veteran journeyman Jacoby Brissett will once again start in his absence.
Head coach John Harbaugh has this Ravens team flying high in 2021 and analysts expect another victory against a Dolphins team that unfortunately hasn't lived up to their lofty preseason expectations. We've identified three player-vs-player matchups that may help determine the outcome of this week-opening contest.
MARQUISE BROWN VS. XAVIEN HOWARD
Marquise Brown has broken out of his shell in rather impressive fashion throughout his third campaign. Now firmly recognized as Baltimore's unquestioned No. 1 receiver, Brown will set career-highs in every meaningful statistical category in 2021. The chemistry between Brown and Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson has been extremely evident on a weekly basis, and both players have taken notable steps forward this season.
Brown should see plenty of Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard on Thursday night, who's reputation as one of the best cover-men in the league remains intact despite Miami's disappointing showings. Howard has recorded two interceptions this season and will be on the hunt to create additional turnovers on Thursday. This receiver-vs-cornerback battle has the makings of must-watch television.
MIKE GESICKI VS. PATRICK QUEEN
He may not be nationally recognized as such just yet, but Miami's starting tight end is a budding superstar that is currently playing an excellent brand of football. After a slow start to the new season, Mike Gesicki broke out in Week 3 and has recorded 488 receiving yards and two touchdowns in his last seven games. Gesicki has developed into a reliable weapon and security blanket for Miami—having Tagovailoa or Jacoby Brissett under center for Miami has had no bearing on his production as both quarterbacks have targeted Gesicki on a fairly consistent basis.
Ravens sophomore linebacker Patrick Queen should draw Gesicki in coverage on several occasions, and the former LSU standout defender has struggled to execute in one-vs-one assignments, earning a coverage grade of just 41.6 thus far, via Pro Football Focus. Look for Miami to identify Queen in coverage on Thursday.
MARK ANDREWS VS. JEROME BAKER
Sticking with the big pass-catchers, Ravens superstar tight end Mark Andrews is primed for a monstrous performance on Thursday. Andrews is finding the end-zone with great efficiency currently, having recorded three touchdown receptions in his last four appearances. He is one of the truly elite tight ends in all of football and Lamar Jackson continues to rely on his ability to beat defenders in coverage and secure game-changing catches on a weekly basis.
Jerome Baker is a fine linebacker with an intriguing skill set, but coverage happens to be his weakness. As a unit, Miami's linebackers have unfortunately all struggled mightily in pass coverage. Look for Baltimore to move Andrews around their offensive formation and take advantage of any and all opportunities that present themselves to go after Miami's horrid linebacker group, but Baker may find himself singled out more often than his teammates.