By Abraham Gutierrez
With no time to celebrate a successful home opener, the Miami Dolphins will have their hands full when they visit the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6. Opening kickoff is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET live from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on CBS.
This will be only the 13th time that these franchises have met on the gridiron. Miami comes in leading the overall series 8-4-0. The Fins defeated the Falcons, 27-23, the last time they met in South Florida during the 2013 NFL season. Nevertheless, Atlanta has won two of its last three meetings against the Fins.
Falcons 2017 NFL record: 3-1-0
Led by head coach Dan Quinn, the defending NFC champs will be nice and rested following their early bye week. Atlanta got its season started with a perfect 3-0 record thanks to wins over the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.
However, they would go into their bye on a bit of a sour note, falling at home to the Buffalo Bills by a final score of 23-17.
Falcons on Offense
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian features one of the most prolific attacks in the National Football League. There’s no question Miami’s defense will have its work cut out, as they’ll face a complete offensive unit that ranks in the top 10 in the four most important statistical categories.
In terms of yards per game, the Falcons offense ranks fourth in the league, averaging 388.2 yards per contest. In the remaining three categories, Atlanta is not to be taken lightly. They come in ranked eighth in the league in points per game (26.0), passing yards (262.5) and rushing yards per contest (125.8).
One of the key weapons of this offensive arsenal is wide receiver Julio Jones. The four-time Pro Bowler suffered a hip flexor injury in the first half of Atlanta’s loss to Buffalo in Week 4. His health status for this game is certainly something to keep a close eye on.
Falcons on Defense
Defensively, Marquand Manuel enters his third season as Atlanta’s defensive coordinator. Thus far, the Falcons resistance has proven to be about average, with some soft spots for Miami to try and exploit.
For starters, the Falcons defense is averaging 22.1 points allowed per game, which is only good enough for 19th place in the NFL. Another area Miami will be looking to capitalize on is through the air, where Atlanta allows 225.2 yards per game, which ranks 17th in the NFL.
Given Jay Cutler’s struggles thus far, one can infer that the focal point of the Fins’ attack this week will come through the ground. With the Falcons allowing 93 yards per contest (ranked 12th in the NFL), running back Jay Ajayi might be in for a big game.
And finally, the area in which the Falcons defense excels is in their ability to limit opposing teams in collecting yards. In the category of total yards per game allowed, Atlanta ranks 10th in the NFL, surrendering an average of 318.2 yards.
Falcons Players to Watch: Matt Ryan, Brooks Reed
It comes as no surprise that longtime quarterback Matt Ryan (88-135, 1109 yards, 5 TDs, 5 INTs, 87.5 QBR) is the Falcons’ offensive player to watch. Even though his numbers haven’t been spectacular this season, he’s done a solid job of distributing the ball with five touchdowns to five different receivers.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Falcons player to watch is defensive end Brooks Reed. The seventh-year man out of Arizona comes into Week 6 leading the team in sacks (3.0), and his 14 tackles this season are good enough for sixth-best in the organization.
NFL Week 6 oddsmakers aren’t being too kind to the visiting team, which comes as no surprise given the way the first four games have gone. According to opening NFL point spreads, the Miami Dolphins (+10½) are listed as double-digit underdogs against the Atlanta Falcons (-10½) and the OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 48 points.