Can't say my heart is as in this one as the past year or so, but I'll give this the old community college try.
When possible, I try to watch the opponents' two previous games to get a sense of what we're in for. I couldn't do that this week, since Atlanta had a bye last week and I simply didn't bother to watch their games before that. So I'll go off of raw stats and some hearsay to try and put together some sort of picture. If any of you have watched the Falcons in recent weeks, by all means, please weigh in.
Tale of the Tape:
The Falcons aren't good. The Dolphins are very clearly worse, as all the numbers indicate. The Falcons aren't really "good" at anything, but they've had a somewhat decent passing game, and their run defense has been OK. That's more than we can say for our Fins, who are in the bottom third of the league in every meaningful category, aside from net turnovers. And even there, they're middle-of-the-pack. On paper, it looks like another surefire loss.
But as we know, games aren't played on paper.
There is a touch of smoke-and-mirrors to any of the Falcons "alright" stats. They've played one of the weaker schedules in the league, getting their two wins against the lowly Giants and Jets, and losing to the highly questionable Eagles and Washington. They got crushed by the Bucs, just like our guys did. So despite their slightly better record, they're pretty similar to our sad collection of Dolphins.
From what little I've seen and heard, the Falcons have had very little to hang their hats on. The defense has been borderline awful, and their running game is just a tick above "really bad." The defensive yards allowed aren't bad, but they give up a ton of points. All that said, there may be a few signs of life. Matt Ryan started off pretty horribly, but has looked a bit better the last couple of games against the likes of the Jets and WFT. It looks like he and everyone else in the offense finally noticed that they have a freak of a tight end in rookie Kyle Pitts, and they've started feeding him. Add in the fact that they'll probably be getting Calvin Ridley back, and you've got some problems to deal with from a defensive standpoint.
And this is why things, I think, are pretty grim for our boys. While I think we'll see the Fins right the ship a little bit, the situation is ripe for Atlanta to throw all over our guys. Every cornerback worth a thing has been listed as "Questionable" on the Friday injury report, and neither X nor Byron Jones suited up against the Jaguars last week. Even if they (and Noah Igbinoghene, for what he's worth) all suit up, I have trouble believing that they'll be anywhere near 100%. And even if the Falcons can't run the ball terribly well, it won't matter much if they can throw for infinite yards all day.
Dolphins' Path to Victory
It's a slim path, but it could happen. There were some promising signs from the offense last week, even if it was against the lowly Jacksonville defense. Tua was back, and he looked pretty good for the vast majority of the game. Yes, the offensive line had its lapses, but it also had several stretches where they provided some decent protection for the their second-year QB. If they continue that progress, the OCs bag some of the goofy play-calls, and they remember that it's legal to run the ball more than 10 times a game, then that's a start.
The second part would be the secondary surprising me a bit. Eric Rowe has proven quite good at limiting tight ends, so he'll need to slow down Kyle Pitts a bit. And if, somehow, Howard and/or Jones are healthy enough to stymie an also-recovering Calvin Ridley and resurgent Cordarrelle Patterson, then there's a chance. Like I said, it's slim, but it's there.
And then there's Falcons' propensity for shooting themselves in their talons. It's hardly anything to hang your hat on, but it's a thing. If the Fins pull it off, there will almost definitely be at least one "Holy $#!t, how dumb can they be?" moments on the part of Atlanta.
I can't do it. Even though Atlanta's bad and it won't shock me if the Fins win, I haven't seen anything from this team since week 1 that has bolstered my hopes. I suspect that it will be a close game, but given that now even our special teams - almost always a major strength in the past - is now also very unreliable, I have to predict a loss.
Dolphins 24, Falcons 31
I think we see some more encouraging signs from Tua and the offense, though they will be slight. I think the defense and special teams continue to flounder, with a few individuals doing well, such as Jaelan Phillips and Jevon Holland. But I think the D on the whole gets abused by the Falcons and we take yet another loss, inching the team closer to the realization that many, many people will lose their jobs within 24 hours of the 2021 regular season ending.