Atlanta Falcons (1-1) at Miami Dolphins (2-0)
The Falcons have been destroyed by injuries thus far this season. Talented linebacker Sean Weatherspoon will miss at least 8 weeks after being put on short-term IR this week, taking away one of the few average or better starters the Falcons have on that side of the ball. Kroy Biermann, meanwhile, is out for the season with injury. He’s not the caliber of player that Weatherspoon is, but his absence will thin an already weak pass rush and force inexperienced youngsters into more action.
On top of that, they lost left tackle Sam Baker for at least this game. He’s really struggled thus far through 2 games, but his absence will force Lamar Holmes, who was already struggling on the right side, to play on the left side, while Jeremy Trueblood will start at right tackle. When we last saw Trueblood as a starter, he was one of the worst starting offensive tackles in the NFL, leading the NFL in quarterback hurries allowed in 2011. This offensive line was already struggling after losing both Tyson Clabo and Todd McClure this off-season, but Baker’s absence won’t make things better. Cameron Wake could dominate Lamar Holmes on the blindside.
They’ve also lost Steven Jackson for about 3 weeks with injury. In his absence, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will handle the load, which could definitely be a concern. After Jackson went down last week, they managed just 36 yards on 13 carries. The organization has previously never seen either as a lead back type, starting the plodding Michael Turner ahead of them last season, which is not a positive sign for their ability to carry the load in Jackson’s absence.
Meanwhile, Roddy White is dealing with a high ankle injury that is seriously sapping his effectiveness. Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez have had to step up in his absence and Jones had a huge game last week, catching 11 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. He probably won’t repeat that again, but he could still have a good game, even with a revitalized Brent Grimes likely matching up with him. Jones’ size advantage could be too much for White to overcome. Gonzalez could also have a big game, so I’m not too worried about the passing offense, but I have serious concerns about the offensive line, the defense, and the running game.
The fact that the Rams almost came back from what was once a 21-0 deficit to win last week, after all of the Falcons’ injuries, have to be concerning going forward. It’s especially concerning since Miami looks like a solid football team. They might not make the playoffs in the AFC, but they should at least win 8 games. It’s not going to be easy for the Falcons to come into Miami and win, especially considering their relative road struggles in the Matt Ryan era. We don’t have a lot of line value with the Dolphins as favorites, but I do like them to cover as short favorites. I’m not that confident in them though because they are making their home debut week 3, a situation teams are 20-40 ATS in since 1989. They could be exhausted from starting the season with two road games.
Miami Dolphins 27 Atlanta Falcons 20
Pick against spread: Miami -2