Sep 15, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws a pass in the second half against the St. Louis Rams at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons Week 3 Preview: Miami Dolphins

Update: Offensive tackle Sam Baker has officially been ruled out for Sunday’s game after this post was published. This is a dangerous blow to the offensive line, and all caveats mentioned below still apply (and then some).

The Falcons got into the win column for the first time in 2013 against the Rams last week, but the victory didn’t come without a cost. The team is very much banged-up as they head to Miami in week 3, and we’ve got your preview here. Let’s go.

Opponent - Miami Dolphins (2-0, 0-0 at home)

Time/TV - 4:05 PM ET, FOX (Regional)

Falcons Offense vs. Dolphins Defense

The Falcons head into this match-up without the benefit of having Steven Jackson in the backfield. Jackson has been officially ruled out for the game since early in the week, and that places the focus directly on Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling, and the run-blocking offensive line. That running back duo didn’t exactly light the world on fire against the Rams with 13 carries for 36 yards, and it’ll be interesting to see who generates the bulk of the carries in the absence of S-Jax. Rodgers will likely get the first shot, but don’t be surprised if we see more Jason Snelling than you would expect against a Miami run defense that is in the top half of the league during this young season.

Through the air, the Falcons are banged-up, but not to the level of the backfield. Roddy White and Julio Jones have both been limited in practice this week, but Jones was limited in week 2 before exploding for 182 yards on 11 catches against the Rams. White is still hobbling a bit, but it’s expected that we’ll see him closer to full-strength as the weeks go by, and that is danger for opposing defenses. Miami has allowed 280 yards per game through the air this season (and one of those games was against Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden), so this should be a spot where Matt Ryan and company get loose.

One spot to focus on will be the offensive line in protecting Matt Ryan. The Dolphins have 9 sacks on the season (tied for 2nd in the NFL), and Cameron Wake is a monster off the edge. Sam Baker isn’t healthy, and the right tackle spot is still a question mark, so that is a definitely something to keep an eye on throughout Sunday afternoon.

Falcons Defense vs. Dolphins Offense

My tendency is to say that this is an “easier” match-up, as Ryan Tannehill heads up the Miami offense, but he’s been surprisingly competent this season. Through 2 games, the former Texas A&M quarterback has only 1 interception, and has thrown for 591 yards with a 94.1 QB rating. He’s certainly not that competent, but it would be nice to see Asante Samuel arrive for some reinforcements in the secondary.

On the ground, running back Lamar Miller was woeful in week 1, but he was very effective (14 carries for 69 yards) against the Colts in week 2, and there is talent there. The Falcons are currently in the top-10 against the run, but that could easily be smoke and mirrors, as they’ve faced off with the pass-first Saints, and a Rams team that was trailing big from the opening half on.

As far as “shut down” match-ups go, it’ll be important to contain Mike Wallace on deep balls. Both Wallace and former Ohio State wideout Brian Hartline are very dangerous, and the youngsters (Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant) will be tested early and often. However, I think they’re up to the challenge, and the reports on Samuel’s health seem to be improving, which should help.

Lastly, this is our first look at the Falcons without the services of both Sean Weatherspoon and Kroy Biermann. The Falcons moved quickly to add depth this week, but as a whole, we shouldn’t expect much from the new guys, and this is a tug on the already-existing depth for this defense. Neither guy is easy to replace, but we’ll know quickly if the Falcons are able to generate any pass rush since teams can now freely double-team Osi Umenyiora, while ignoring a suddenly dull linebacking corps.


Overall, this is a dangerous spot for the Falcons. Miami is actually the de facto favorite in this game (just ask Las Vegas), as they protect their home field for the first time after a 2-0 start to the year on the road. There is no doubt in my mind that Atlanta is the better team, but the crowd should actually be lively in Miami given that it is the home opener, and if Tannehill settles in, it could be a long day. With a gun to my head, I’d take the Falcons, but I certainly don’t feel comfortable as this game kicks off.

Stay tuned for a game thread on Sunday, and give us feedback in the comments!

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Miami Dolphins

  • Fraziel

    As a Dolphins fan its interesting to see how subjective your comments are. Yeah, Miami’s secondary has given up nearly 600 yards but its an air it out league these days and they have had injury problems, not to mention facing the Colts high powered air attack. If you look at Miami’s first pick secondary it’s actually pretty good and if they are all fit Ryan could find it tough. Reshad Jones and Grimes are both top 5 in their positions on current form.

    You are also kidding yourself on if you think Alford and Trufant will handle Hartline and Wallace.Brent Grimes is playing like an elite corner and he will need help against Julio Jones so the idea that 2 inexperienced youngsters will handle Hartline and Wallace is wishful thinking.

    Miamis front 7 are very talented and if they can get at Ryan, which is quite possible, Atlanta’s high powered passing offence will not get things all its own way. Lets face it, your ground game is not going to do well against the Dolphins top 5 defensive line. I also think you are being unkind to Tannehill. He has played exceptionally well with an o line in front of him that is struggling to protect him. If things continue as they are he will be on target to get sacked 70-80 times this year while under constant rush pressure yet he is getting the job done well with a receiving core he is not that familiar with , other than Hartline. How is Atlanta’s pass rush? Not too good from what i have seen and read.

    On paper i would expect Atlanta to sneak it purely down to Ryan being an elite qb while Tannehill is still learning the trade but i think there is every chance that if Miami can work out to handle Gonzalez and put pressure on Ryan that you will lose. Could be a high scoring game and i reckon a very exciting one.

    • Brad R

      I would strongly disagree that Grimes and Jones are top-5 at their positions, but even so, they are legitimate obstacles. However, it’s tough to help off of Julio Jones with Atlanta’s balanced attack, and Grimes is small in stature against the monster that is Jones.

      As far as the Alford/Trufant pairing against the Miami receivers, they won’t be matched up straight up with them, as Robert McClain and Asante Samuel will see some action, and I think you’d vastly overrate Hartline if you think he is a game-breaker.

      All discussion of Tannehill is probably opinion-based, but I don’t think he’s a top-15 quarterback. The Falcons pass rush is certainly mediocre, but even with time, I’m not convinced that Tannehill can the do the type of damage necessary to out-duel Matt Ryan and company.

      Should be a fun one either way. Thanks for your interest. Tell a friend!

      • Fraziel

        Fair enough but opinion from many commentators would place Jones as a top five safety.Bleacher report had him in top 3 when they listed the safeties for every team in order of talent. Grimes is small, which is why i said he will need help, but at his present level of play he is close to top 5, if not already there. Jones would be a nightmare to cover even by Revis at the Bucs so i am under no illusions about how tough it will be.

        I dont believe Hartline is a game breaker either but he is enormously under rated, he gained over a thousand yards last year with a dire offence around him and a rookie QB, and so far this year is on target to break that. He should score considerably more TDs this year than last too. Having watched him in both games this year he has been outstanding. Want to bet against him having another 100 yard game today? I don’t.

        Its too early to say how Tannehill has improved but he is certainly not at Ryan’s standard yet. He has however been very good this year so far despite the pressure throwing near 300 in one game and over it the next. How will he do with time? very well but yeah, he is not Ryan yet. With Miamis superior defence though it could make it close.

        I think Gonzalez could do well today though as at the moment with the injuries in miamis secondary and the lack of depth at LB they have had trouble working out how to stop good receiving tight ends. I hope that ends today.

        I have always had a soft spot for the Falcons, right back to when you had the crazy coach that thought Elvis was still alive, and i think they are an exciting team to watch. I was disappointed they didnt win the superbowl last year as i had a few quid on them at good odds and it would have been nice to see them get one.Please dont be offended if i say i disagree with you,a lot! Who ever is right can have a wee gloat on here afterwards,lol.

        • Fraziel

          Bearing in mind Miami played inconsistently with a normally stout run defence that couldnt stop the run today, an Injured Wallace, Koa Misi and Cam wake, an o line that gave up 5 sacks, Tannehill throwing 2 tds and having approx a 70% complation rate, you revised your opinion? It was a very good game to watch though and Miami’s inability to be consistent drives me round the twist. Good luck with the reast of your season and i hope to see the Falcons in the play offs. Just make sure you beat San Francisco this timei if you get them.

  • MashPotato

    It doesn’t matter that the Dolphins have allowed 280 pass yards a game. They have only allowed three touchdowns in two games, and 0 points in two fourth quarters.