The 1-1 Atlanta Falcons have a considerable test on Sunday afternoon, as the team looks to start a winning streak when they face off with the 2-0 Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium at 4:05 p.m.
Fresh off a 31-24 victory over the St. Louis Rams, the Falcons are ready to show the world that they are indeed Super Bowl contenders, but in order to do so they will have to deliver against a Dolphins squad that has looked much better this season and appears to have an excellent shot of winning the AFC East for the first time since 2008.
The big question for the Falcons in this game focuses squarely on the running game. The ground attack was severely damaged in last week’s win over St. Louis, as the team lost starting running back Steven Jackson for at least two weeks (thigh injury) and lost starting fullback Bradie Ewing (separated shoulder) for the remainder of the year.
With these two mainstays out for a considerable amount of time, the team will most likely turn towards the duo of Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, who have combined for just fifteen carries on the young season. Despite quarterback Matt Ryan’s ability to carve up opposing defenses through the air—he has 678 passing yards and 4 touchdowns through two games—on a fairly regular basis, Atlanta absolutely must establish the running game to keep the Dolphins’ defense, featuring dangerous DE Cameron Wake and former Falcon cornerback Brent Grimes; otherwise Ryan may take an absolute beating from the Fins.
Meanwhile, the Falcons defense, which also suffered a huge loss with defensive end Kroy Biermann’s devastating torn Achilles, should focus on managing Miami’s passing offense effectively. Led by second year starter Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins’ air attack has been aided with the acquisition of former Steelers standout Mike Wallace, who overcame his personal gripes from Week 1 (he’s a diva, it comes with the position) and responded with a nine catch, 115 yard and one touchdown day against the Colts for Week 2.
While Wallace is questionable for this game with a groin injury, the use of Wallace along with Brian Hartline and the practically anonymous Dolphins’ running game—the leading rusher is Daniel Thomas with a whopping 72 yards on 24 carries—makes it clear that head coach Joe Philbin is utilizing the style of play that he ran with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Tannehill is by no means as good as that Discount Double Check dude, but that does not mean the former Packers offensive coordinator won’t give the sophomore several shots down the field in this one.
Prediction: The Dolphins are a slim one point favorite in this matchup, and the game will actually reflect this line and play out to be a very close one. Despite the injuries at running back, the Falcons’ offense will put up a plethora of yards mainly through the air, something Ryan and Co. did on a regular basis during Michael Turner’s struggles last year. Meanwhile, the Dolphins keep pace with the Falcons thanks to some heads up plays by Tannehill, who continues to thrive under the leadership of Philbin and offensive coordinator/former Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman. Miami looks poised to move to 3-0 for the first time since 2002, but another last minute drive by Ryan leads the Falcons to a hard fought victory. Final Score Atlanta Falcons 34, Miami Dolphins 31
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