The Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons will face off later today in a Week 6 showdown in Atlanta. I turned to Davie Choate over at The Falcoholic to get a better look at the Falcons and what the Dolphins should be expecting today.
1. Matt Ryan is currently recording his second lowest passer rating of his career. What is happening with the quarterback many Dolphins fans wish the South Florida franchise had selected number one overall in 2008?
I think it's a combination of factors. He's had some very unlucky throws, with three passes bouncing off receivers' hands and turning into interceptions. He's adjusting to a new offense under Steve Sarkisian and has been dealing with injuries to right tackle Ryan Schraeder, Julio Jones, and Mohamed Sanu. And then there's the simple fact that he was unlikely to repeat his MVP season, where he threw a career low number of picks, career high number of yards and touchdowns, and presided over one of the greatest offenses of all-time. I imagine he'll right the ship and go back to being a very good quarterback in short order.
2. Julio Jones has yet to find the second zone and is down on yards per reception and yards per game this year. Is this just a factor of teams gameplanning to stop Jones, or is there something else happening? (To be fair, Jones is second in the league in yards per route run, but hey, maybe there is something that is working to keep Jones out of the endzone, right?)
It is, I think, a little bit of both. Teams are doing a solid job of at least holding Julio in check, tackling him when he gets the ball, and he was hurt for part of the Buffalo game. It's also just the Falcons not really looking his way that often in the red zone, despite a preseason promise to do just that, and the team's continued commitment to spreading the ball around.
To these eyes, Julio hasn't looked any worse than he ever has, so chances are the success is coming. Maybe against you guys? (Sorry).
3. Looking at the defense, the Falcons are currently 10th in overall defense, allowing 318.3 yards per game, but are 18th in points allowed at 22.3. What is working and where is the defense struggling this year for Atlanta?
Thus far, the defense is struggling to get turnovers and make big tackles. They've missed a ton of tackles in 2017 to this point, which has kept drives alive and enabled otherwise mediocre offensive teams to chew up time and put points on the board. The lack of turnovers has played into that, as well, with Desmond Trufant getting the team's only two against Green Bay with a pick and a fumble return for a touchdown.
Otherwise, though, they've done good work at limiting opposing offenses, bending but not breaking, and especially getting after the quarterback, which is something they've previously struggled with. This is a young, quick defense that is only getting better, and I'm confident they'll at least start getting more turnovers for no other reason than luck.
4. The Dolphins' defensive strength this year has been against the run, as well as the pass rush. The Falcons are 15th in the league with 12 sacks allowed. Is there a way for the Dolphins' pass rush, which includes Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Andre Branch, and Charles Harris, to get after Matt Ryan? Is there someone on the line who will be able to shut down the Dolphins' defense?
Well, Alex Mack is one of the best centers in football, and he'll be a key cog on the line against Miami. I do think that the Dolphins' pass rush is a legitimate concern for Atlanta, even if they're getting back right tackle Ryan Schraeder, who should be able to help keep his side of the line largely in check. You have Suh going up against first-year starter Wes Schweitzer at right guard, you have Jake Matthews struggling a bit with speed on the left side, and Andy Levitre is a quality player who can have bad days, so if Miami brings enough heat chances are they'll get through.
The question then becomes whether those pressures turn into sacks or errant throws that turn the tide for the defense. I don't know the answer to that, but I can tell you it's my greatest concern heading into this game. I do think the Falcons will be able to run reasonably well against Miami, even if I'm not quite expecting a 100 yard day on the ground.
5. What are you expecting from the Falcons this week and for the remainder of the season?
I'll be honest and say I'm expecting a big win. I respect the defense you guys have and I'm concerned they'll get the kind of turnovers that doomed the Falcons against the Bills, but I just don't see your offense being able to keep pace in this one, and I think a turnover or two for Atlanta would turn this one into a big win. I'm currently going 34-20, Atlanta, and you're welcome to accuse me of being a homer.
For the rest of the year, I expect the Falcons to contend and make a strong playoff push, with my final record projection standing at 11-5. I do think their offense isn't quite as good as last year, but the defense is improved, and that should be enough to once again make them one of the best teams in the conference.