Before the season, Atlanta's Week 3 matchup with Miami was likely one many Falcon fans circled as a win. The Dolphins were coming off a 7-9 season while Atlanta finished 13-3 and nearly advanced to the Super Bowl. Now, after just two games in 2013, the perception of Sunday's game has changed.
Miami is 2-0 with a pair of impressive road victories. The Falcons are 1-1 and coming off a win, but have been bitten by the injury bug recently and haven't played well defensively. In fact, enough has changed that the Dolphins opened as the betting favorite.
Meet the Dolphins
Following a 23-10 win against the Browns in Week 1, the Dolphins were back on the road in Week 2 and knocked off Indianapolis, 24-20. Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill has thrown just two touchdowns on the season, but has been extremely efficient. He's completed 65.3 percent of his passes and is averaging 8.2 yards per attempt. Both are significantly better than the numbers he posted last season.
Mike Wallace was quiet in his Miami debut before hauling in nine passes for 115 yards in Week 2. Tight end Charles Clay has also proven to be a weapon with 10 catches for 163 yards. Miami's biggest issue in the early season has been the running game. While Lamar Miller had more success in Week 2, the Dolphins are still 28th in the league in rushing.
Miami's pass defense will be tested this week, especially against Atlanta's wide receivers. The good news for the Dolphins is Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll are playing well. Grimes, the former Falcon, is the tied for the second-highest ranked corner, according to Pro Football Focus, while Carroll is fourth.
Meet the Falcons
With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, there was no question the Falcons would be able to throw the ball successfully this season. Atlanta is sixth in the league in passing, averaging 318 yards per game. Stopping the pass, however, has been a whole different issue. Only three teams allowed more passing yards during the first two games than the Falcons. Drew Brees threw for 357 yards against Atlanta in the season opener and Sam Bradford nearly brought St. Louis all the way back while throwing for 352 yards last week.
To make matters worse, the Falcons have been hit hard by injuries. White has been slowed by an injury and Atlanta will be without Steven Jackson and Sean Weatherspoon against Miami. Atlanta also placed defensive end Kroy Biermann on injured reserve.
Local Takes: Miami
So what's been the biggest difference from Miami this season and last? Sean Donovan wrote the defense is a major reason for the strong start:
The difference was an improved defensive performance from a year ago. In a way, the outcome was a direct return on some of the moves the Dolphins made this past offseason: it was free agent pick up Brent Grimes with the pick in the endzone, and fellow signee Philip Wheeler was credited with the game-clinching sack.
Local Takes: Atlanta
Pass rush has been an issue for the Falcons in recent years and James Rael of The Falcoholic wrote things aren't looking much better:
Pass rushing is an elusive concept. The root of it, how to fix it, when it's necessary, when it's a non-priority, there's simply endless discussion about it. At this point, the Falcons don't have it. I'd be lying if I said things are looking up. I'd be lying if I said the Falcons are almost at a point where they can really pressure the passer. Because they aren't. They aren't.
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@AdamHBeasley -- Dolphins beat writer
@AJCFalcons -- Falcons beat writer
From the Week 3 picks
The Dolphins favored over the Falcons? My how the world has changed. It's really not a huge surprise. Atlanta lost Steven Jackson, Kroy Biermann and Bradie Ewing last week against the Rams. Roddy White is still dealing with a balky ankle. Ryan Tannehill is off to a fine sophomore season, completing more than 65 percent of his passes.
The pick: Miami
Miami opened as a 1.5-point favorite, according to Odds Shark. It's the first time the Dolphins opened as a favorite this season.
Miami will go back on the road next week to take on the Saints on Monday Night Football.
Atlanta will return home for a Sunday Night Football matchup with the New England Patriots.