NFL Playoffs: Defense and Rushing wins playoff games, the Ravens have both

We've faced the Baltimore Ravens twice this season (each time, the Ravens limited the Bengals offense to less than eight first downs). In each game, the Ravens ran down our throats, while their defense suffocated our offense with six total points (one touchdown on a Johnathan Joseph fumble return for touchdown during kickoff weekend). What's different from this season's version of the Ravens from its predecessors, is that the offense is increasingly stable, with good game-management by rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, leading a three-headed monster running back unit of Willie McGahee, Le'Ron McClain and Ray Rice -- all three combining for 2,027 yards rushing.

With the second-ranked defense in the NFL, the Ravens' 15.2 scoring defense (second) is helped by a passing defense (second) and a league best 60.6 passer rating against opposing quarterbacks. Showcasing the rushing defense, third best in the NFL, will eventually determine whether the Miami Dolphins can compete against the Ravens. If it wasn't for the Steelers, Baltimore would be first in many of the major defensive categories; be that as it may, the Ravens are in the top-five in nearly every category on defense.

The Ravens finished the season 11-5; all five defeats against playoff teams (Steelers twice, Titans, Colts and Giants). Overall, the Ravens are 2-5 against playoff teams, with a win against the Eagles and the Miami Dolphins.

The trouble that the Dolphins face is that when used Wild Cat formations (at the time, considered "unstoppable"), the Ravens held Ronnie Brown and Rick Williams to 43 yards rushing on 17 carries -- the longest being a 13-yard Brown rush. Willis McGahee recorded his first of three 100-yard performances this season, including a touchdown and a 35-yard reception. Flacco was playing game-management while Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs dominated.

We think it's incredible what the Dolphins have done this year; they're written the script on how to go from 1-15 to playoff berth by outperforming an 11-5 New England Patriots' squad that's watching this game, from home. Convinced primarily by watching several Ravens' games, it's rare that Baltimore is soundly beaten this season, with only two defeats by more than four points (28-point loss to the Colts, 20-point loss to the Giants). The Dolphins are 1-2 against playoff teams, ending 2008 on a five-game winning streak against the Rams, Bills, 49ers, Chiefs, and Jets.

We're not trying to take anything away from the Dolphins, or the fans that support them, but the Ravens have played great most of the season and their style of football (good defense, powerful rushing offense) is often two things that wins playoff games.

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