Friday, August 24, 2012

Atlanta Falcons vs Miami Dolphins: ATL -3 1st Half (5Dimes)

Coaches

Mike Smith doesn't have a very good overall NFLX record. With his two losses this year his total drops to 6-12. Thankfully for our purposes, the only relevant stats that I'm looking at is the first half results from the previous two games.  In games against the Ravens and the Bengals, the Falcons went into halftime with a convincing lead.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins have gotten completely owned in both of their preseason games so far. The Buccaneers made quick work of Miami's starting unit and it wasn't much better when they faced Cam Newton and company either. Coach Joe Philben has told the media that they were primarily focused on the passing game in those games and that they will return to a more balanced attack when they host Atlanta.

Markets

The Falcons opened at -1 favorites and that was quickly pushed to -3 with early money.  If I was setting the halftime line, I would have Atlanta favored by more than a field goal as the second half matchup is a wash.

Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan has a gotten a lot of slack over recent years for his inability to be a difference maker in the big games.  Count me as one of his critics, but it's obvious the guy has the necessary tools to succeed.

Now he has another elite wideout in Julio Jones to lean on and so far the new Dirk Koetter offense has been a big hit. Ryan is 27 of 34 for 329 yards and two touchdowns through two games and don't be surprised if we see another repeat performance against a Dolphins secondary still looking to prove themselves. 

Atlanta was in the red zone three times vs the Bengals and only ran the ball once. Koetter told the media they already know what Michael Turner and company can do on the ground. Right now, it's all about synchronizing the downfield passing attack. I don't expect that to change in this game and Ryan says they are focusing on improving the red zone efficiency.

The Dolphins would just be happy if they could get in the red zone, let alone worry about converting touchdowns. Miami's starters have been outscored 24-0 in the first quarters of both games this preseason. It doesn't seem to matter if it's Matt Moore or Ryan Tannehill. There is nobody reliable to throw to.

This week we'll get another look at Tannehill as he's been named the teams starter going forward.  I really don't like his chances throwing into a trio of Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson, and Asante Samuel.  Returning to the run game is a good idea and will give them their best chance to put up some points.

Loose Ends

Cameron Wake should be in the lineup for Miami which would be a huge boost to their pass rush assuming he plays the half, but they'll still be without their force in the middle - Karlos Dansby. Normally I would call this a push, but Atlanta's O-line has looked leaky. This could pose some problems for Ryan. 

But speaking of a pass rush, Ron Edwards and Peria Jerry looked real good against Cincinnati last week. If these two can keep it up the Falcons might be able to finally get off the field on 3rd down this season.

Pick

Just like the Green Bay pick, sometimes the analysis is pretty straight-forward. The Falcons starters have looked great so far and they have more than enough talent to move the chains. It's pretty clear the new blood at the coordinator position has given the team some added juice and pop.

I would like to say the same thing about Miami, but they just don't have the talent to put it all together right now. The best I can say is they have some pieces to work with going forward. Perhaps they get off to a good start and carry it through to the half, but I'm betting against it.

NFL Pick: ATL -3 1st Half.

The rest of my Week 3 predictions are here, or you can find all my 2012 predictions on the home page main menu.