Miami Dolphins (0-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
Regular season series: Atlanta is 3-7 all-time against the Dolphins. They've won two of the last three, though, including a 17-10 win in Miami during the 2005 season. The last time the Dolphins visited the Georgia Dome was in 1998, when O.J. Santiago caught a pair of first quarter touchdown passes, helping the Falcons to an easy 37-16 win.
2009 Draft Class
Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois (1st round, 25th overall)
Pat White, QB, West Virginia (2nd round, 44th overall)
Sean Smith, CB, Utah (2nd round, 61st overall)
Patrick Turner, WR, USC (3rd round, 87th overall)
Brian Hartline, WR, Ohio State (4th round, 108th overall)
*John Nalbone, TE, Monmouth (5th round, 161st overall)
Chris Clemons, S, Clemson (5th round, 165th overall)
Andrew Gardner, T, Georgia Tech (6th round, 181st overall)
**J.D. Folsom, LB, Weber State (7th round, 214th overall)
Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi (1st round, 24th overall)
William Moore, S, Missouri (2nd round, 55th overall)
Christopher Owens, CB, San Jose State (3rd round, 90th overall)
Lawrence Sidbury, DE, Richmond (4th round, 125th overall)
*William Middleton, CB, Furman (5th round, 138th overall)
Garrett Reynolds, OT, North Carolina (5th round, 156th overall)
Spencer Adkins, LB, Miami (6th round, 176th overall)
**Vance Walker, DT, Georgia Tech (7th round, 210th overall)
Stats & Rankings (2008 regular season rankings)
Total: 12th (345.6 yards per game)
Passing: 10th (227.0 yards per game)
Rushing: 11th (118.6 yards per game)
Scoring: 21st (21.6 points per game)
Total: 15th (329.0 yards per game)
Passing: 25th (227.8 yards per game)
Rushing: 10th (101.2 yards per game)
Scoring: 9th (16.6 points per game)
Turnover Ratio: 1st (+17)
Total: 6th (361.2 yards per game)
Passing: 14th (208.5 yards per game)
Rushing: 2nd (152.7 yards per game)
Scoring: 10th (24.4 points per game)
Total: 24th (347.9 yards per game)
Passing: 21st (220.4 yards per game)
Rushing: 25th (127.5 yards per game)
Scoring: 11th (20.3 points per game)
Turnover Ratio: 21st (-3)
Probable: CB Vontae Davis (knee)
CBS has the telecast, with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf calling the action.
Vegas Line: Falcons -4 (o/u 43 ½)
Keys to the Game
Stop the Run – While everyone talks about "The Wildcat", the facts are Miami has a solid offensive line and two good running backs, allowing them to run the ball successfully without using any innovative formations. This will be the Falcons' run defense's first major test of the 2009 season.
Keep Matt Ryan Clean – Between Joey Porter and Jason Taylor, the Dolphins have two excellent pass-rushers the Falcons' line will have to contend with. Atlanta will have to do whatever it takes (keeping a tight end not named Gonzalez in to block, chipping with the running back) to keep them at bay so Ryan can find his receivers downfield.
Create More Turnovers – When he was coordinating the Jacksonville Jaguars defense from 2003-07, Mike Smith's defenses averaged 27.4 takeaways per season. Last year, the Falcons created just 18, the lowest among the twelve playoff teams. The Dolphins protect the football better than everyone, so forcing them to turn the ball over would bode well for the '09 season.
I wouldn't expect a touchdown pass on the first play and another 300+ yards on the ground like they got in last year's season-opener, but I think the Falcons will start out the 2009 season on the right foot by getting a "W" over their fellow surprise team from 2008. A late Jason Elam field goal is the difference.
Pick: Falcons 20, Dolphins 17
In addition to writing for FalconInsider.com, Brian blogs daily at (www.macsfootballblog.com). If you'd like to e-mail Brian, you may do so here.