The Miami Dolphins will travel to Georgia to take on the Atlanta Falcons in a cross-conference matchup Sunday.
The Dolphins will enter the contest 2-2, one game behind everyone else in the AFC East. The Falcons are 3-1, a half game behind the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South. The Dolphins have been led by an aggressive defense that dominated the Tennessee Titans. Miami had six sacks, two forced fumbles, a defensive touchdown and only 10 points allowed against Tennessee. The Dolphins will be tested by an Atlanta offense that is fourth in total yards and eighth in scoring.
Here are five predictions for the Dolphins-Falcons game:
Picks will happen
In four games, the Falcons have just one interception. But that’s not the worst in the league. The Dolphins are one of three NFL squads that have yet to record an interception this season. This will change on Sunday as both teams will have opportunities. The Dolphins will likely get off the interception snide only for the reason they should get more opportunities. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has attempted 77 passes in the last two games and has been intercepted five times. Ryan has attempted at least 28 passes in games this year, so Miami will their chance. The Falcons will probably have a chance as well. Jay Cutler only has three picks but has been intercepted at least once in the last three weeks. Cutler has only averaged 27 passes the last two weeks, so the chances for the Falcons won’t be as plentiful.
Falcons will pass to set up the run
The Falcons have done a good job of being balanced on offense. Everyone knows they like to pitch and catch all over the field, but the Falcons also love running the ball. Atlanta is eighth in the league averaging 125.8 rushing yards per game. The Falcons will face a Dolphins’ squad that has been strong against the run this season. Miami is fifth in the league allowing just 75.5 yards per game rushing to opponents. The Dolphins held the high-powered rushing attack of the Tennessee Titans to just 69 yards rushing. To offset that, expect the Falcons to throw early to try to loosen up the Dolphins’ defense before unleashing Devonta Freeman.
Jarvis Landry will get targeted often
Even if Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker can get over his ankle injury and play Sunday, expect another receiver to get a lot of looks. Jarvis Landry has been Cutler’s go-to receiver since the beginning of the season. Landry leads the team with 43 targets, according to Pro Football Reference. Landry also leads the team in catches (30) and is second in yards to Parker. Landy gets targeted at any time but especially on third downs. Landy has 10 catches and his lone touchdown on that down, which is good for fourth in the AFC. Both teams will be eyeing Landry on Sunday.
While the Dolphins would love for Jay Ajayi to go over the 100-yard mark as he did in the opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, the yards aren’t really the most important. The carries are. Cutler completed just 12 passes in last week’s victory, but Ajayi carried the ball 25 times (for 77 yards). By committing to the run, the Dolphins can keep the dangerous Falcons’ offense off the field. While the club must get some production from its run game, the Falcons’ offense can’t hurt the Dolphins if it’s on the bench.
The Falcons might get 2016 sack leader Vic Beasley back to face the Dolphins and that could be bad news for Miami. Cutler has been sacked 10 times this season. Beasley has two sacks this season and will be itching to get back going Sunday. Coming off a hamstring injury, it isn’t known how well Beasley will be, if he’s able to suit up. But his return would be big for rookie Takk McKinley, as well as the rest of the defensive line.
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