Week 3: Dolphins-Falcons matchup analysis

Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Atlanta Falcons (1-1) at Miami Dolphins (2-0)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla. - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Chris Myers, Tim Ryan, Jennifer Hale
*Keys to the game: The Falcons travel to play the upstart Dolphins trying to cope with a rash of early-season injuries that have sidelined key playmakers on both sides of the ball. One of Atlanta's biggest concerns has been shoddy pass protection. With RB Steven Jackson and FB Bradie Ewing out, Atlanta will likely struggle to run the ball with consistency - exposing QB Matt Ryan to the Dolphins' speed package featuring as many as six potential pass rushers. That, in turn, could cripple the Falcons' downfield passing game and force Ryan to engineer lengthy scoring drives. The Dolphins have also struggled to produce much on the ground, but the Falcons are without start LB Sean Weatherspoon and versatile Kroy Biermann. With QB Ryan Tannehill steadily building chemistry with deep threat Mike Wallace, it should begin to open more running lanes for Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.
*Matchup to watch - Falcons DE Jonathan Massaquoi vs. Dolphins RT Tyson Clabo: The two used to lock horns regularly in practice last year. Clabo, who was released by Atlanta after last season, lacks great food speed but can be a load in the ground game. Massaquoi is in line for increased snaps with Biermann out.
*Player spotlight - Falcons LB Joplo Bartu: The undrafted rookie assumes the task of replacing Weatherspoon. He recorded six tackles, including two for a loss and a quarterback hit, in 63 snaps last week. A defensive end in college, he impressed the Falcons' coaching staff with his coverage abilities during training camp.
*Fast facts: Falcons LT Sam Baker, who is battling knee/right foot issues, allowed four QB hits and six pressures in 47 pass plays last week, according to Pro Football Focus. ... Clabo has been charged with three of the Dolphins' nine sacks allowed.
Just how good is Miami? The answer still won't be crystal clear despite a 3-0 start after the Dolphins are able to take advantage of the depleted Falcons for a solid home-opening victory.
*Our pick: Dolphins 23-21