The Miami Dolphins host the Atlanta Falcons in the team's home opener at Sun Life Stadium in Week 3 of the 2013 NFL season.
2-0 Miami will face their toughest test of the young campaign when they take on 1-1 Atlanta, a team many believe are Super Bowl contenders. The Dolphins surprising start makes this one of the more anticpated matchups of the week.
The key injuries for both teams adds to the intrigue of this tilt. For the Falcons, defensive end Kroy Biermann, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, running back Steven Jackson and left tackle Sam Baker have all been ruled out. Although receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones are questionable and expected to play, Miami could catch a break by not having to face them at full strength.
For the Dolphins, defensive tackle Paul Soliai and cornerback Dimitri Patterson have been ruled out while receiver Mike Wallace, center Mike Pouncey and safety Chris Clemons are all questionable.
Let's take a look at who has the edge in this matchup, taking into account the numerous injuries for both teams:
Dolphins pass offense vs. Falcons pass defense:
In two games, the Dolphins have proved that they can move the ball downfield with their revamped receiving core. Tannehill has looked like a much improved quarterback and is finding success throwing to Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. While Miami can win without Wallace, his presence on the field Sunday will stretch the field against a Falcons pass defense that has been torched in consecutive games. Atlanta ranks 30th in the league in pass yards allowed per game with 346.5, therefore this is a matchup that Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins can take advantage of. Add in Charles Clay, who showed he is a vluable weapon last week, to the equation for Miami on offense and it could be a long day for Atlanta's defenders.
Dolphins rush offense vs. Falcons rush defense:
After rushing for 20 yards on 23 carries in Week 1, Dolphins running backs turned in a much better performance in Week 2. Lamar Miller showed the skill set and big play potential that allowed him to earn the starting job while Daniel Thomas was effective in a complimentary role and the run blocking was better. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement considering that they averaged 3.7 yards per carry in last week's win. Despite Atlanta's eighth ranked rush defense as they have allowed only 73.5 yards per game, Miami has a chance to exploit the voids left by Biermann and Weatherspoon being out of the lineup.
Falcons pass offense vs. Dolphins pass defense:
The success of the Falcons explosive offense will decide this game. Led by Matt Ryan, the Falcons have scored an average of 24 points per game in the first two week's of the season and average 318 passing yards per game, which is good for 6th in the league. The most glaring matchup nightmare is Julio Jones against the Dolphins secondary. Jones is emerging as one of the best young wide outs in the NFL and can take the top off a defense with ease. Although he is banged up, Roddy White also poses a threat in addition to Harry Douglas and tight end Tony Gonzalez. If the Dolphins are to win this matchup, they will need to take advantage of the Falcons poor offensive line and ensure Ryan doesn't have time to get the ball to his dynamic pass catchers. However, the Falcons are not afraid to rely on the screen pass, something they used 12 times last week which can neutralize the Dolphins blitz, so it remains:
Falcons rush offense vs. Dolphins rush defense:
Atlanta is averaging 62 rushing yards per game with Steven Jackson averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Without Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will take over in the Falcons backfield despite the fact that this duo only has a combined 15 carries in two games. While the Dolphins shouldn't sleep on either of these two backs, they don't pose nearly the threat that Jackson does. Being without Paul Soliai couldn't have come at a better time considering Atlanta's woes on the ground.