Put your hand up if you really thought that the Miami Dolphins would have a chance at upsetting a NFC title contender during the early portion of the season. For the very few optimistic fans out there, this is the time for you to point fingers at opposing fans and say, “I told you so!” For the rest of you, I’m right there with you.
Miami (2-0) will be facing off against the Atlanta Falcons (1-1) this Sunday at 4:05 Eastern and Miami actually has a chance to be in this game believe it or not. The Dolphins have taken down the now Trent Richardson-less Browns (WHAT!?) and the Andrew Luck-led Colts, but can Miami really take down the high powered offense led by QB Matt Ryan?
Let’s take a look at a few keys to victory for your Miami Dolphins:
1. Contain Atlanta’s offense. Notice the word “contain” here. It would be very optimistic to think that Miami’s defense can stop Atlanta’s offensive attack. I understand that Atlanta’s bruising running back, Steven Jackson, has been ruled out, but with weapons such as Roddy White (yes, he’s banged up also, big deal), Julio Jones, Harry Douglas in the slot and of course the always reliable Tony Gonzalez, Miami’s defense has it’s work cut out. Miami’s secondary is a bit beat up, also. Dimitri Patterson, one of Miami’s starting corners whom intercepted two passes during Miami’s week 1 victory over the Cleveland Browns, was held out of action last week against Indianapolis to nurse his tweaked groin. Starting safety Chris Clemons is also nursing a hamstring injury. If both players cannot go this week, Miami’s back-ups CB Nolan Carroll and S Jimmy Wilson will have to step up big time if Miami wants any chance of winning.
2. Win the turnover battle. Head Coach Joe Philbin has been preaching for what seems like forever now that for the team to find any inch of success they must win the turnover battle. Now, obviously it’s tough for a young team like Miami to play an entirely clean game, but the team needs to take care of the ball in the red-zone specifically. If Miami can take care of the football in the red-zone and force a turnover or two on defense, this team has a very good chance of winning in an upset that would shake the football world.
3. Take advantage of Jopolo Bartu. Bartu will be replacing the injured Sean Witherspoon in Mike Nolan‘s defense Sunday. Bartu, if you are unaware, is an undrafted free agent who will be making his first career start EVER Sunday. Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman must target Bartu repeatedly throughout the game to not only test the youngster, but to also exploit a weakness in this front seven. Atlanta’s front will also be missing defensive end, Kroy Biermann, after tearing his Achilles tendon.
4. ATTENTION OFFEENSIVE LINE, please protect QB Ryan Tannehill. It’s quite clear, and I have made this statement to numerous friends and colleagues, this Miami Dolphin team will go as far as the offensive line takes it. If you have the ability, take a look back at some of Miami’s three-and-out drives. The offensive line gave QB Ryan Tannehill absolutely no time to find his weapons on offense. Now, take a look at some of Miami’s longer drives producing points. The offensive line, granted they aren’t great, gave Tannehill time to find his weapons. Tannehill has a plethora of weapons on offense such as: WR Brian Hartline, WR Mike Wallace, WR Brandon Gibson, RB Lamar Miller, RB Daniel Thomas, TE Charles Clay, etc. If Tannehill is given time against a beat-up Atlanta pass rush, the second-year quarterback may very well lead his time to victory. If not, this game could get ugly.
5. ATTENTION DEFENSIVE LINE, just show up. This talented defense was able to put together 6 sacks against Cleveland. Against Indianapolis, this defense put together a measly 3 sacks against what seemed like a worse offensive line than Cleveland’s. Atlanta clearly has a better offensive line than both teams, but DE Cameron Wake will face off against RT Lamar Holmes. Wake had one of his worst statistical performances last Sunday in his stellar career with Miami. Bottom line is that I would hate to be facing this ferocious defensive end after a performance like that. Wake will come ready to go, so I hope the young Holmes is prepared. And he likely will be. DE Olivier Vernon has been disappointing thus far after an impressive preseason and training camp. With Vernon struggling and DE’s Derrick Shelby and Dion Jordan showing promise, I will not be surprised if Shelby and Jordan see extended playing time. And can we please stop dropping Vernon and Shelby into coverage on tight ends? It will kill Miami this week, Kevin Coyle.
This game is truly going to be one of Miami’s biggest tests of the young season. If Miami can somehow come out of this one on top, the team has a good shot of going into their bye week at a 4-1 or 3-2 record. Not to mention Miami will be a hot topic as a potential AFC play-off bracket buster.
Atlanta’s high powered offense will challenge this fast defense Miami has assembled. But, in the end Atlanta’s offense has too much fire power for Miami’s young team and beat up secondary to overcome.
Atlanta – 28 Miami – 24