While the Atlanta Falcons enter Week 3 by winning their first game in 2013 by defeating the St. Louis Rams 31-24, their opponent, the Miami Dolphins, are coming off an emotional game as they stifled the Indianapolis Colts on fourth down to stay unbeaten.
As these two teams prepare to battle in Week 3, all the pressure will be on the Falcons to avoid an upset and keep up with the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South Division race.
Although Matt Ryan and the offense exploded against the Rams, the Falcons are very vulnerable as they lost five starters at the end of the first half against the Rams. While the offense took a hit in losing Steven Jackson and Bradie Ewing, the defense was hit the hardest as they lost three players, including their linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to a foot injury.
Nevertheless, the Falcons continue their quest for the Super Bowl, but have much work to do. In their game against the run-first, pass-second Fins team, the Falcons’ main concern is holding up the on the defensive end.
While the Fins aren’t exactly a dangerous team offensively as they rank 14th in passing with 276 yards per game and 28th in rushing with a mere 60.5 yards per game, the Falcons have a knack for making even the worst offensive teams look really good, particularly in the passing attack.
In two games, the Falcons’ secondary has surrendered 357 passing yards to Drew Brees in Week 1 and allowed Sam Bradford to throw in another outstanding performance with 352 passing yards himself, not to mention they narrowly escaped a comeback attempt that fell a touchdown short.
Despite the porous passing defense that continues to be an issue for the Falcons, the run defense has been much improved. The Falcons currently rank ninth in rushing defense compared to being ranked 29th in passing defense, as they allow 73.5 yards per game.
With the Falcons missing Weatherspoon, Asante Samuel and Kroy Biermann, the Dolphins’ terrible rushing game might have a small chance in cracking open a defense that is far from 100 percent.
The Falcons will once again try to start quickly and maintain a lead, which will be harder for them as they will be without their top running back in Jackson. The Falcons will try to have more of a balance attack, but expect the Falcons to air it out with Julio Jones coming off an impressive game and Tony Gonzalez working the middle of the field.
For the Dolphins, suiting up against the Falcons by winning two straight games has their confidence high as they look to extend their winning streak to three. While the Fins have struggled in the running game by averaging only 60.5 yards per game, home run hitter Lamar Miller had a much better game by rushing for 69 yards and scoring a touchdown.
The most impressive aspect, however, isn’t the offense, but the Fins’ defense. They were able to frustrate Andrew Luck when it mattered the most, and did not allow him to pull any last-minute heroics by stifling him on their own 23-yard line and preserving the win.
Overall, the Fins had an excellent game, as quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 319 yards and a score, with his favorite target being speedster Mike Wallace with nine receptions for 115 yards and a score. Against the Falcons, expect the Fins to take advantage of all their injuries, as they try to utilize Miller and Wallace’s speed on the outside in hopes of breaking out a couple of huge plays.
The Dolphins have a golden opportunity to knock off one of the best teams in the NFL when they are at their weakest and show how much they improved since 2012. The Falcons will fight to prevent that from happening.
“No pain, no gain” will be the motto for the Falcons as they adjust to life without some of their best players on the field. Great teams thrive under pressure and this Sunday, we will get the chance to see what type of team the Falcons choose to be.