coleryan Posts:16214 Followers:21
On 09/16/2013 05:52 PM in NFL

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins: Preview and Pick

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins: Preview and Pick

It is not often that a football team starts the NFL season at 2-0 with two wins on the road and still gets little respect. However that is exactly what is happening to the Miami Dolphins. Although they have two wins and have yet to play in front of the home fans, the odds maker and the football betting fans are still favoring the visiting Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins Odds

The NFL betting line for this game opened up with the Dolphins as (-2.5) point favorites but that was not destined to last long. Once the line opened the betting public came in and poured money on the visiting Falcons. Due to that volume the line has dropped and can now be found at (-1.5) at several of the top ranked online sportsbooks. According to all of the sportsbooks in Las Vegas and some consensus betting sites 90 percent of the action is on the Dirty Birds. That will cause some more line movement leading up to game time.

The Falcons big win against the Rams was led by Matt Ryan at quarterback. Ryan was 13-of-17 for 209 yards and an 81-yard touchdown to Julio Jones against at least five pass rushers, continuing his stellar start against added pressure. Ryan now has 41 games with at least 2 Pass TD, the fifth-most by any player through his first six seasons. The Dolphins will have to decide if they want to bring the heat against the Falcons in this game. Running back Steven Jackson will be watched carefully as he left the game against the Rams with a deep thigh bruise.

The Dolphins have a passing offense as well. Ryan Tannehill was 8-of-9 passing more than 10 yards downfield Sunday, picking up 209 of his 319 passing yards on those throws. Newly acquired Mike Wallace finally hit his groove and will be a target to watch against the Falcons.

The latest NFL betting trends indicate that there are plenty of valuable angles for this game. The Falcons are 6-0-1 against the spread (ATS) when playing against the Dolphins and that number is 4-0-1 ATS for games that are played in Miami. The Falcons are 15-5 straight up in the last 20 games overall, but just 1-4 ATS in the last five games overall. The Dolphins are 9-4 straight up in the last 13 games at home and 4-1 in the last five games overall.

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-5-0
coleryan Posts:16214 Followers:21
09/17/2013 03:29 PM

Running back Steven Jackson never returned to Sunday's 31-24 victory over the St. Louis Rams after leaving with an injury. Coach Mike Smith announced Monday that defensive end Kroy Biermann is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

A person informed of Jackson's injury tells NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport that Jackson might miss 2-4 weeks with a thigh injury. The 30-year-old officially is viewed as "week to week."

What's worse, the Falcons announced that linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has been placed on IR-designated to return after suffering a foot sprain in Sunday's contest.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Over the first two games of the regular season, the Miami Dolphins look like a team that has made significant strides in all three phases of the game from just a year ago. And the results have been tangible, as Miami sits at 2-0 for the first time since 2010 as they prepare for this weekend’s home opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

Needless to say, Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin is pleased with where his ball club stands heading into week three. “It was a great team win,” Philbin said of Miami’s win in Indianapolis during his weekly show with The Finsiders. “A lot of different players contributed to the success. I thought all three units had a play in it, and I give a lot of credit to our staff. I thought we had our players ready to go.”

Ryan Tannehill had another stellar outing, completing 23 of 34 attempts for 319 yards and one touchdown. However, one of the more notable improvements was that of the running game. After hardly being able to muster up any ounce of yardage against the Cleveland Browns, Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas combined to produce 99 yards on 24 carries against the Colts.

Philbin, who will always point to the big picture when you ask him about a specific facet of the game, credited the Dolphins’ offensive line for the ground production’s turnaround. “When you look at the film, there was less penetration,” he said, “so that enabled our backs to really get on course more than they had the prior week. We covered up the color of the opposition much, much better.”

Philbin added Miller and Thomas also did a good job hitting holes and picking up yards after contact, both of which are good signs for Miami’s offense moving forward.

But while the play of Tannehill and the running backs were encouraging for the Dolphins, there were also aspects of Sunday’s game that might go unnoticed by many, but carried just as much weight in the equation of the final outcome.

One of those phases was that of penalties. For just the sixth time in franchise history, the Dolphins did not commit a single penalty throughout the entire 60 minutes of the contest.

“We talked to the guys and one of the things we said was that got to go out there and play clean and we have to play fast, and play with discipline.’ We’re on the road, we’re potentially in a very loud environment. Our communication has to be good and we just have to play football by the rules,” Philbin said of the feat. “And there’s a lot of good pictures in the tape of guys where we could have taken a quarterback to the ground, we got our hands on them, we kind of let up a little bit. I think they took the coaching to heed and did a nice job in that area.”

The other phase was the strong finishing of the halves, which has long been a point of emphasis for Philbin as Miami’s head coach.

After allowing a touchdown with less than two minutes to go in the first half, Tannehill and the offense went to work with just 1:26 on the clock. And they did so quickly and efficiently, moving the ball 44-yards on seven plays to set up Caleb Sturgis with a 54-yard field goal attempt.

The rookie kicker nailed it twice, showing unwavering focus despite Colts head coach Chuck Pagano’s attempt to ice him.

“We had talked all week about we have to play better at the half,” Philbin said.

“We kicked the field goal, he did it twice,” he continued. “He absolutely drilled that second one. I mean, just a huge play in the football game. I told the team at halftime, ‘Remember those three points. It’s going to be big.’”

Looking ahead, Philbin and the Dolphins will be looking to build off their hot start with a tough test this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons. The New Orleans Saints loom the following week, as Miami will head to the Superdome for a Monday night showdown. The Dolphins then return home for a meeting with the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens, before finally catching a break with a bye week.

“We have to do a better job on offense,” Philbin said when asked where he would like to see improvement. “Our ball security—the ball was on the ground too much. There’s no question about that. And we still have pass protection, we have to show some consistency in the run game and shore up our pass protection.”

Philbin also mentioned cutting down on the amount of explosive passing plays allowed by Miami’s defense. The first instance that comes to mind was Colts quarterback Andrew Luck hitting a streaking T.Y. Hilton over the head of Brent Grimes for a 47-yard gain in the first half of Sunday’s game



  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-5-0
coleryan Posts:16214 Followers:21
09/18/2013 03:37 PM

After back-to-back victories, the Dolphins’ vision for a winning team is taking hold. ‘We got a helluva team in the making,’ coach Joe Philbin said. This was the vision of how the Dolphins would play when general manager Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin crafted their blueprint back in February. And through two joyous Sundays, the Dolphins and their success-starved fans are watching that vision come to life.

The man behind center has made the biggest jump of the second-year quarterbacks, exactly as offensive coordinator Mike Sherman predicted.

The defense is creating more turnovers. Brent Grimes has been a significant upgrade over Sean Smith as a No. 1 cornerback. Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler are making a bigger impact than predecessors Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett.

The offense is more explosive, even without tight end Dustin Keller, a key piece of the offseason overhaul.

“We got a helluva team in the making,” Philbin told his players, voice rising, after Sunday’s win in Indianapolis. “It doesn’t get any better than that!”

Yes, it’s a small sample size, too soon to form any definitive conclusions or print playoff tickets.

But this is the best the Dolphins can justifiably feel about themselves since 2008, even more so than 2010, when Miami opened the season by winning at Buffalo and Minnesota but finished 7-9. Also consider this: Since 1990, 63 percent of NFL teams that start 2-0 make the playoffs.

“Miami, you’ve got a football team to go ahead with your basketball team now!” Tony Dungy announced on NBC Sunday night. “I think Miami’s legit.” And Jimmy Johnson said on Fox: “The Dolphins are pretty good. Really physical front.”

There will assuredly be adversity through this journey, including defensive tackle Paul Soliai’s knee injury in the fourth quarter Sunday.

Soliai’s availability for Sunday’s game against Atlanta is in question; the Dolphins aren’t sure yet whether he will be able to play. But the injury is not believed to be season-threatening. “We’re not certain how Paul’s condition will be as the week goes on,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. If Soliai misses a game or two, Randy Starks would resume starting alongside Jared Odrick. But Soliai hopes to be able to play Sunday.

What’s the most uplifting sign so far, aside from the 2-0 record?

It has to be the growth of Ryan Tannehill, who produced a subpar 76.1 quarterback rating as a rookie. He now stands at 94.6 after two games, which ranks 14th — ahead of Robert Griffin III (89.6), Drew Brees (87.4), Joe Flacco (78.1) and Tom Brady (74.1), among others.

“Ryan’s play speed is a little bit better,” Philbin said. “He’s seeing things on the field a hair quicker.”

Tannehill, who ranked in the bottom third or quarter of the league in most offensive categories last season, now ranks in the upper half in most.

He’s 10th in completion percentage, 12th in yards, ninth in average gain per completion and sixth-best in interceptions.

“Having gone through an NFL season and an [offseason program] as a starter, he has grown into the position, has tremendous confidence,” Sherman said. “He shows me great composure when he’s on the field.”

The Dolphins’ vision of fielding an offense with quick-strike ability materialized on their first drive Sunday, when Miami needed just 2:19 to travel 58 yards in six plays, punctuated by Mike Wallace scoring on an 18-yard catch and run on a screen.

“That screen was set up for Mike if we had the right look. If we didn’t, it would have gone to the other side,” Sherman said. “It’s predicated on what the defense is giving us.”

Defensively, the Dolphins believed Ellerbe and Wheeler would make a greater impact than Dansby (now with Arizona) and Burnett (Oakland), and Sunday’s game offered some evidence, with Wheeler’s sack ending the Colts’ final drive.

Ellerbe had 14 tackles in the game, Wheeler 12.

“Their play speed has been good, blitzing has been good,” Philbin said. “They’re aggressive. They’re off to good starts.”

Said Coyle: “They fly around, play with great energy. They play at a very high tempo. We’re really pleased with them.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-5-0
coleryan Posts:16214 Followers:21
09/19/2013 02:29 PM

The untold story of the Falcons' rise to prominence in the NFC under head coach Mike Smith has been the team's relative good health.

Part of the reason why Smith has been able to put together five straight winning seasons and make four trips to the playoffs has been the team's lack of injuries.

The odds seemed to catch up with the Falcons all in one game. They lost four starters against the Rams and have two other starters severely limited. They could go to Miami without six players.

The Falcons' backups, who will fill in for four departed starters, will be on the hot seat against the Dolphins.

Linebacker Joplo Bartu, an undrafted rookie from Texas State, will take over at weak-side linebacker for Sean Weatherspoon, who's out for eight weeks because of a foot injury.

Defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi will take over Kroy Biermann's role. Biermann was placed on injured reserve with a torn right Achilles tendon.

Fullbacks Jason Snelling and Patrick DiMarco could split the fullback chores of Bradie Ewing, who was placed on injured reserve with a separated left shoulder.

Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers will try to pick up the slack for running back Steven Jackson, who's out with a hamstring injury.

Bartu has the biggest shoes to fill. "I'm looking forward to proving everybody wrong that doubted me," Bartu said. "I've got a chip on my shoulder."

Bartu, 22, got off to a good start against the Rams. Forced to play 63 snaps after Weatherspoon left the game with a foot injury, Bartu responded with six tackles, including two for loss, and a quarterback hit.

Now, he will start at outside linebacker. It's a rapid ascension for a player who was just trying to make the team in training camp.

"At the end of the day, it's just football," Bartu said. "When you've been playing football for so long, no matter if it's 2,000 people watching or 80,000 people watching, it's (still) just football."

At Texas State, Bartu said he played defensive end on passing downs as a junior and again when injuries left the team thin on the line early in his senior season.

Bartu impressed Falcons coaches with his pass-coverage ability during training camp. Against the Rams, Bartu also flashed instincts playing the run and made some sure tackles in the open field.

"He did a very good job," Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "I would hope for him to do the same and keep getting better."

Massaquoi also has a major task in attempting to replace the steady Biermann. "People can expect me to play that role the same, if not the same then greater," said Massaquoi, a second-year player. "As the next man up, you have to keep the tempo and the pace almost as though no one has left.

Massaquoi believes that he can help the Falcons anemic pass rush, which has registered two sacks, both by defensive tackles.



SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series 7-4. The Falcons have won the last two meetings. They defeated the Dolphins 19-7 on Nov. 16, 2009 and 17-10 on Sept. 13, 2005.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-5-0
coleryan Posts:16214 Followers:21
09/20/2013 06:59 PM

Unless the Dolphins meet Denver in the playoffs, they will not face a team with more dangerous weapons in the passing game this season than their next two opponents: Atlanta and New Orleans.

And injuries are adding new layers of uncertainty to Sunday’s home opener against the Falcons, including Friday’s news that three star receivers are listed as questionable on the injury report: the Dolphins’ Mike Wallace, who tweaked his groin this week, and the Falcons’ Julio Jones and Roddy White, who have been playing through knee and ankle injuries, respectively.

All three were limited in practice Friday. Wallace, who missed the preseason opener with a groin injury, appeared to be moving normally after practice, which was mostly closed to the media.

What’s more, the Dolphins’ defensive backfield will be without starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who is out with a groin injury, and might be without safety Chris Clemons, who is questionable with a hamstring injury.

That could be problematic if Jones and White continue playing in spite of their ailments.

Defensive tackle Paul Soliai, as expected, also was ruled out with a knee injury that isn’t season-threatening but could keep him sidelined beyond this week.

And linebacker Koa Misi (knee) and center Mike Pouncey (ankle) were listed as questionable, but both are considered more likely to play than not, barring a setback.

Beyond Wallace, the biggest worry Sunday is stopping the Falcons’ passing game with a depleted secondary, a difficult task if Jones and White are suited up. The Dolphins also must deal with Tony Gonzalez, who holds the NFL tight end record for touchdown receptions (104) and yards (14,337).

And in Matt Ryan, the Falcons have a quarterback who has thrown 70 more career touchdowns than interceptions (131 to 61). He’s fifth in the league in quarterback rating at 107.9 and rolls into Miami off a 374-yard aerial assault in a win against St. Louis, and off a 2012 season that was his best, including a 68.6 completion percentage and 32 touchdowns.

“It’s a great offense,” said Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, who spent his first six seasons with the Falcons. “If you’re not ready, they can make you look bad in a lot of ways. They’ve got great weapons and a great quarterback to throw it to them.”

Jones, 6-3, has 258 yards receiving in two games, second in the league behind Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson. He has fully justified the Falcons’ decision to give up a bundle for him in the 2011 draft – including two No. 1 picks and five picks overall.

“Julio can do everything,” Grimes said. “An awesome player.”

White, 6-0, has just five catches for 40 yards while battling through a high ankle sprain but comes off a 92- reception, 1351-yard season.

With Patterson missing a second consecutive game, Nolan Carroll is expected to start again at cornerback opposite Grimes. Carroll performed competently against the Colts, allowing three of the eight passes thrown against him to be completed, for 41 yards.

But Jimmy Wilson had less success; the Colts completed four of the five passes in his coverage area, for 51 yards. Wilson, who is listed as probable with a groin injury, likely would start at safety if Clemons cannot play. Clemons said earlier this week he expects to play.

Rookie cornerbacks Jamar Taylor (groin) and Will Davis (toe) were listed as probable, and one or both could be needed for defensive snaps Sunday.

Slowing Gonzalez – who had seven catches for 69 yards and a touchdown this season – ranks high on the Dolphins’ priority list.

As was the case last season, the Dolphins have struggled to slow tight ends. Among Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron, Indianapolis’ Coby Fleener and their backups, the Dolphins already have permitted tight ends to catch 15 passes for 199 yards.

Numerous Dolphins have been victimized. Philip Wheeler has allowed 9 of 10 passes thrown in his coverage area to be completed, for 84 yards, though not all have been against tight ends.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said critics should keep this in mind:

“When you look around the league, it’s not just us,” he said. “These tight ends, they are darn good athletes. We’ve got to keep mixing things up and do a better job against them.”

Miami has nine sacks in two games, and it’s critical the Dolphins generate a consistent pass rush Sunday.

Atlanta has allowed five sacks, and Ryan has been hit a lot. Falcons left tackle Sam Baker was ruled out Sunday with knee and foot injuries, and starting running back Stephen Jackson (hamstring) is also out.

The Falcons will shift right tackle Lamar Holmes -- who has allowed eight quarterback hurries and a sack -- to left tackle, with Jeremy Trueblood taking over at right tackle.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-5-0
coleryan Posts:16214 Followers:21
09/21/2013 11:54 AM

Atlanta Falcons starting left tackle Sam Baker, held out of practice all week with a knee/foot injury, has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

Baker’s absence means the Falcons are set to go with a tackle combination of second-year player Lamar Holmes and veteran newcomer Jeremy Trueblood. Holmes is expected to shift to left tackle after starting the first two games at right tackle, while Trueblood is set to step in at right tackle after joining the team on Sept. 3. Holmes emerged as a starter after Mike Johnson suffered a season-ending broken fibula and dislocated ankle in August.

Regardless of how the Falcons line up, they’ll have quite a challenge against the Dolphins defensive line and pass-rush specialist Cameron Wake. The Dolphins have nine sacks, including 2.5 by Wake.

"He’s a hell of a pass-rusher," Holmes said of Wake. "He can play the run, too. We just have to be ready for whatever he throws at you. He’s that good. He knows how to set you up. He sets you up to get to where he needs to get to."

Receivers Roddy White (high-ankle sprain) and Julio Jones (knee), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), and defensive end Cliff Matthews (neck) are questionable for Sunday, although they seem destined to play despite the injuries. Linebacker Akeem Dent (shoulder) and center Peter Konz (knee) are probable.

The Falcons already are without running back Steven Jackson, who is expected to miss three weeks with a hamstring injury. The team lost defensive end Kroy Biermann (Achilles’ tear) and fullback Bradie Ewing (separated shoulder) to season-ending injuries, while starting linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot) was placed on injured reserve with designation to return (Week 11).

Also, Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux was excused from Friday’s practice for personal reasons. The matter will not affect his status for Sunday’s game.

Here is the full injury report for both teams:

FALCONS
Out: RB Steven Jackson (hamstring), LT Sam Baker (knee/foot)

Questionable: WR Julio Jones (knee), DE Cliff Matthews (neck), CB Asante Samuel (thigh), WR Roddy White (ankle).

Probable: LB Akeem Dent (shoulder), C Peter Konz (knee)

DOLPHINS
Out: CB Dimitri Patterson (groin), DT Paul Soliai (knee)

Questionable: S Chris Clemons (hamstring), QB Pat Devlin (ankle), LB Koa Misi (knee), C Mike Pouncey (ankle), WR Mike Wallace (groin)

Probable: CB Will Davis (toe), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ribs), T Nate Garner (shoulder), G John Jerry (knee), DE Dion Jordan (shoulder), QB Ryan Tannehill (right shoulder), CB Jamar Taylor (groin), DE Olivier Vernon (thumb), S Jimmy Wilson (groin)

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-5-0
coleryan Posts:16214 Followers:21
09/22/2013 07:24 AM

The Dolphins are a much better team than anyone is giving credit. They host a Falcons team that has injuries all over the field. They will be without Steven Jackson, playing with banged up wide outs and a weak offensive line. End result will not be good.

Pick: Miami -2.5

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-5-0