Why Dolphins will win: They don't turn the ball over. The Dolphins, led by QB Chad Pennington — the NFL's all-time leader in completion percentage — committed 13 turnovers, tied for best in the NFL with the Giants. They must be efficient against the ball-hawking Ravens, who racked up a league-high 34 takeaways, including a pick of Pennington in their 27-13 win in Miami on Oct. 19.
Why Ravens will win: Rookie QB Joe Flacco can't play like one. He has come up big in the team's biggest games, including last week's win over the Seahawks (career-high 297 yards) to clinch a playoff berth. His best game? A 120.2 rating in a win at Miami on Oct. 19. The Dolphins' pass defense ranks 25th in the league (227.8 yards).
Matchup to watch: The Ravens defense vs. Miami's "Wildcat" formation. The Dolphins have baffled opponents (just ask the Patriots) with their gimmicky formation, which includes direct snaps to RBs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown with QB Chad Pennington lining up at receiver. The Ravens were the first to stymie the Wildcat, holding Miami to 4 yards on five plays. They have devoted 10 minutes per practice to defending the Wildcat. Can they stop it again?
Quotable: "They are a hardnosed football team. They are going to bash you, run the ball, do play action and try to get you to bite up on the run to throw the ball. They aren't going to sit back in five wides and throw the ball because they don't have the personnel to do it, so if you can stop their run, you can pretty much control the game." — Dolphins LB Channing Crowder on the Ravens, who averaged an AFC-best 148.5 yards rushing per game
Number of the day
11 Average points per game given up by Baltimore in 11 playoff games (best in the NFL since 1970 merger).
stephen f. Holder's Prediction: Ravens 17, Dolphins 14
Joe Smith, Times staff writer