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The final two weeks of the 2023 NFL regular season are set to potentially answer some final questions regarding the NFL Playoffs. There are going to be games that will make or break some team’s chances for the postseason. Going into this Sunday’s matchups, only three teams from the AFC and four teams from the NFC have clinched a spot in the playoffs. This is going to be a great opportunity for NFL fans and bettors to make bets to potentially win some significant earnings through DraftKings.
This year’s battle in the AFC has been unlike what many football experts believed the race for the postseason to be. At the top of the conference are the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens. While they have both already clinched a spot in the postseason, this Sunday’s matchup between the two teams will be the biggest decider on whether Miami or Baltimore gets the #1 seed in the AFC, which gives the team a first-round bye and the home-field advantage throughout the postseason leading up to the Super Bowl.
Throughout this season, the Miami Dolphins have been a team that has been among the most consistent teams in the league, but their play against teams with winning records has been less than efficient. The Dolphins started by winning their first three games this season followed by a tough road loss to the Buffalo Bills. Miami will win two more games until losing and a key Sunday night matchup at the Philadelphia Eagles. The Dolphins came off the bye week with a 6-3 overall record and have 1/5 of the last six games. Last Sunday's Christmas Eve matchup at home versus the Dallas Cowboys was the biggest win yet for the Dolphins as they defeated the Cowboys 22-20. This was the first win of the season where Miami had defeated a team with a winning record.
The Ravens had been one of the most explosive and dynamic teams on both sides of the ball since the start of the season. Baltimore started their first five games of the season winning three to five games as two losses came within one position. Through events were able to account for a four-game winning streak, including dominating wins such as the 38-6 win at home over the Detroit Lions in week seven and the 37-3 home win over the Seattle Seahawks. Baltimore has won five consecutive games, including a tremendous 33-19 win at the San Francisco 49ers.
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It is no secret that the Miami Dolphins possess one of the most explosive offensively. When it comes to short-yardage situations or In the red, the Dolphins are not the most efficient team.
Miami has a solid kicker in Jason Sanders to help get them into excellent scoring situations.
Through each of the last three weeks of the season, Sanders has had at least three field goal temps in each game. He's made at least two field goals in each of the last three games as he is 10-11 and his last 11 attempts. He is coming off a stellar performance in the 22-20 win over the Dallas Cowboys where he made all five of his field goals.
The Ravens are coming into this game with the league’s top-ranked scoring defense as they have allowed an average of 16.3 points per game. There are going to be tough situations for the Dolphins’ offense where they are stellar due to the elite players spread throughout the field. Sanders has a chance to make his Pro Bowl statement in this huge game for the Dolphins.
Last week in the Dolphins’ win over the Cowboys, Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was able to account for six receptions for 118 yards and four touchdowns. This is because he was a huge mismatch throughout the field due to his speed and incredible route-running ability.
Ravens rookie receiver Zay Flowers has the potential to be a similar matchup nightmare for the Dolphins’ secondary. Flowers has caught 74 receptions for 752 yards and four touchdowns. While Flowers is not as big of a player as Lamb is, his speed and incredible burst off his routes are what make him a dangerous receiver.
Outside of quarterback Lamar Jackson's dual-threat abilities, it will be the established and speedy route running of Flowers that will give the Ravens a serious boost over the Dolphins' highly efficient defense.
This week is going to be a critical week for Miami Dolphins star wide receiver Tyreek Hill. For Hill to surpass Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving yard record of 1,964 yards, Hill will need 324 yards to accomplish this. He can accomplish this by averaging 162 yards in the last two games of the season for the Dolphins.
That will be easier said than done as the Dolphins offense takes on the Ravens elite defense that is ranked 6th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (193.9). Hill we'll have more pressure on him in the remainder of the regular season as Miami’s other star receiver in Jaylen Waddle will be out due to a high ankle sprain.
Hill has been an explosive weapon for Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as his explosive speed and reliability in the deep-passing game have made him a serious NFL League MVP candidate. Hill’s impact will also depend on the health and availability of the Ravens’ secondary, including safety Kyle Hamilton.
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What: Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
When: Sunday, December 31, 1:00 PM E.T.
How to Watch: CBS, NFL Network, YouTube TV
Michael Hanich is a sports journalist/analyst with a wide variety of experience in the newspaper and digital field. He has a love for all sports. The leagues that he covers are College Football, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, College Basketball (men’s and women’s), the MLB, Lacrosse, Volleyball, and the WNBA.More info on Michael Hanich
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