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Ravens face much-improved Ryan Tannehill in key AFC showdown

Eleven months ago, the Baltimore Ravens dominated a struggling Ryan Tannehill. On Sunday, the Ravens face a vastly improved Miami Dolphins quarterback.

Tannehill is the NFL's No. 13-rated passer with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His 94.7 rating is higher than Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson.

It was last December when the Ravens held Tannehill to 9-of-19 passing for 86 yards (38 of which came on a touchdown pass to DeVante Parker). But in his first season under coach Adam Gase, Tannehill is enjoying his most efficient season of his five-year career. Through 11 games, Tannehill is completing 66 percent of his throws and averaging 7.8 yards per attempt -- both of which are easily personal highs.

The Ravens represent a big challenge for Tannehill, especially at home. Baltimore's defense is giving up 192.8 passing yards at M&T Bank Stadium this season, which is third best in the NFL.

Here are six players to watch, courtesy of ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker:

OFFENSE

RB Jay Ajayi: Miami’s 2015 fifth-round draft pick is one of the surprise breakout players in the NFL this season. Ajayi posted back-to-back games of 200-plus rushing yards and followed that with an 111-yard rushing performance, but since then opponents have taken notice. More often the Dolphins’ offense is seeing eight players in the box to stuff Ajayi and the running game. He rushed for just 45 yards last week against the 49ers and hasn’t surpassed 79 rushing yards in his past three games.

QB Ryan Tannehill: The added attention on Ajayi has opened things up for Tannehill and the passing game. Miami’s quarterback had arguably his best and most efficient game of the season last week with 285 passing yards, three touchdowns and a 130.6 passer rating. Tannehill has nine touchdowns and just one interception in his past six games. Over that run, Tannehill also has been clutch with three game-winning or game-tying touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.

WR DeVante Parker: A hamstring injury hampered Parker’s production early in the season, but he’s finally close to 100 percent and playing well. Parker is averaging 5.3 receptions and 82 receiving yards over the past three games. He is Miami’s best deep threat and is second on the team in both receptions (41) and receiving yards (549).

DEFENSE

MLB Kiko Alonso: The Dolphins made an under-the-radar acquisition this offseason that is paying big dividends. Alonso was considered an extra throw-in during a trade for cornerback Byron Maxwell with the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams swapped first-round picks and Miami got two defensive starters. However, Alonso has been the more consistent of the two players and leads the Dolphins with 91 tackles and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions.

CB Byron Maxwell: Maxwell draws an interesting assignment this week with Ravens receivers Mike Wallace and Steve Smith. Maxwell, who has good size and long arms, is better suited to defend Smith, who is physical. Speedsters like Wallace are more likely to give Maxwell issues. The Dolphins have relied on Maxwell this year to be their No. 1 cornerback with mixed results.

DT Ndamukong Suh: Expect a grind-it-out game between these two teams with plenty of playoff intensity. This is the style that fits Suh, who is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Suh will command double-teams from the Ravens. He is second on the team with five sacks and also made a big play last week by stopping 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick near the goal line on the final play of the game.