Baltimore vs. Miami
Open: 37.5 O/U, BAL -3
Press time: 37.5 O/U, BAL -3
Woohoo. It’s Thursday, so you know what that means. It’s time to square off a career backup quarterback and one playing worse than a backup in one of the league’s lowest-scoring venues. At least we should have some turnovers.
Be it because of his back or whatever else, Joe Flacco is playing at a historically low level. With five touchdowns and eight interceptions on 224 pass attempts, Flacco owns a touchdown percentage of 2.2 and an interception percentage of 3.6. He’s averaging just 5.3 yards per pass. Going back to 1950, there are only seven instances of a quarterback throwing more than 220 passes with a YPA of 5.3 or less, a touchdown percentage of 2.2 or less, and an interception percentage of 3.6 or more. Four of those cases were in the 1960s or 1970s, when defensive pass interference basically wasn’t a thing. The other three are JaMarcus Russell (2009), Ryan Leaf (1998), and Bobby Hoying (1998). Flacco cannot be a starter in 2018 and shouldn’t be one now.
But he is, at least for today. He faces a Miami defense that has allowed a quarterback rating of 102.9, the fifth-highest total in the league. Miami has poor cornerback personnel, and their 8.8 yards allowed per target to opposing wideouts is one of the worst figures in the league. Unfortunately for Flacco, the Dolphins more pertinently have allowed just 6.2 yards per target to opposing tight ends. More importantly, the fact that Flacco might be without all of Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), Mike Wallace (concussion), and Ben Watson (knee) makes this a potential disaster spot despite the favorable matchup. Chris Moore (WR) and Nick Boyle (TE) may need to lead the way at their respective positions, but the odds of producing while Flacco is quarterback simply aren’t good.
Javorius Allen might see even more targets than usual due to Baltimore’s injury issues among pass catchers. He’s yet to clear 40 receiving yards in a game despite catching five or more passes in four games, including an eight-catch, 29-yard showing last week. That’s hideous efficiency, but Allen can’t be blamed for his numbers in this profoundly dysfunctional offense. Alex Collins is the go-to running specialist for Baltimore, but he’s struggled to accumulate volume due to Baltimore’s sputtering passing game. The Miami run defense, allowing 3.9 yards per carry to running backs, is probably beatable otherwise.
While his offensive line is bad and the road matchup against a traditionally strong Baltimore defense is a concern, Jay Ajayi generally carries the most favorable projection in this game. The Ravens were beat up by Latavius Murray last week, even with the return of standout nose tackle Brandon Williams from injury. With 74 carries over the last three weeks, Ajayi should get plenty of volume at least, especially with Flacco and the Baltimore offense likely surrendering favorable field position and time of possession.
I expect Matt Moore to be a clear upgrade over Jay Cutler – such was the case as Moore led Miami to a comeback win against the Jets last week – but this is a very tough matchup for him. The Ravens are allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, giving up just 6.7 YPA while forcing 10 interceptions against eight touchdowns allowed. That includes just 757 yards and three touchdowns to wide receivers on 120 targets (6.3 YPT). With the outside coverage particularly tough to throw against, Jarvis Landry safely projects for at least 12 targets in this game. If anyone matches Ajayi’s fantasy projection in this one, it’s Landry.
I’ll take the under and a Miami victory.
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(line data from covers.com)