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3* Ravens -3 -125 - This was the game that stood out to us when the Wildcard matchups were announced. We've had out eye on the Ravens down the stretch and they haven't disappointed. The defense of course, has been very impressive over the 2nd half of the season. We're specifically looking at the last 8 games of the season. The Giants did a number on the Ravens scoring 30 points in the process but no one else scored more than 13. Ok, the Cowboys scored 24 points but don't forget that was a 16-7 Ravens lead after 3 quarters before both teams scored 17 in the wacky 4th quarter. But remember too, the opponent this week is the Dolphins. They don't possess the weapons on offense that either the Cowboys or Giants do.

When you have been handicapping football for as long as this handicapper has, you come to appreciate a defense like the Ravens and just what it means to a team come this time of year. What makes the Ravens even more attractive right now is that they are not a one trick pony. They actually have an offense to go along with the defense. Let's take a look at some numbers that should open some eyes.

Those of you that have been with us any length of time know we love the yards per point stat. We have been using that number for over 25 years to handicap football games and while the teams change every year, the numbers don't. It's a complete snap shot of a teams ability on both sides of the ball. In short, the lower the offensive number, the better the offense and the higher the defensive number, the better the defense. The Ravens numbers over the 2nd half of the season are comparable to any Super Bowl teams numbers over the last 25 years. You can look at theses numbers and very accurately figure who at least has a shot a making some noise in the playoffs and who has no shot. The Ravens have a very real shot. The Dolphins have no shot. Let's dig a little deeper.

Over the last 8 games the Ravens have an offensive ypp number of 12 and a defensive number of 20.6. Fantastic on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins have a below average number on offense of 15.6 and a decent number of 16.6 defensively. Put another way, in 25 years of handicapping games, teams with an offensive number of 15.6 don't often beat teams with a defensive number of 20.6. They simply don't figure to be able to put many points on the board. Another eye popping figure is Miami's ypp number at home over the course of the entire season. It's an anemic 18.6 which is beyond atrocious. An 18.6 offense  doesn't figure to score at all against a 20.6 defense.

Hats off to the Dolphins for the job they have done this year. To go from 1-15 to 11-5 is remarkable. They did it by not beating themselves. They don't take stupid penalties and they don't throw games away. They don't turn the ball over and win by playing near perfect fundamental football. But if you zero in on the Dolphins schedule, you can find some question marks, and hey, why not, a 1-15 team from the previous year is supposed to play a weak schedule the following year.

 Start with the Seattle game November 9th. Miami squeaked by a bad Seattle team 21-19. They were lucky to beat the Raiders 17-15. They were blown away by the Pats. Barely got by the hapless Rams 16-12. Squeaked by the 49ers 14-9. Gave up a mind boggling 31 points in an uncharacteristic 38-31 shootout with the Chiefs and then managed to get by a Jets team that quite frankly wasn't very good to seal the deal.

Again, credit Miami for winning. A win is a win. They deserve to be here. It just looks as if they are outclassed in this one. These two teams played back in October and the Ravens won 27-13. The Dolphins are pretty much the same team as they were in October. The Ravens are without question, a better team than they were back in October.

Midnight comes early for Cinderella on Sunday. 3* Ravens -3 -125 over Dolphins

 

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