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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
*updated Sat

Prediction: MIA 17, ATL 24

The Dolphins won the AFC East with a 11-5 record that left the Patriots just watching the TV for the playoffs. The Falcons also had 11-5 record that scored a wildcard in the NFC. Both teams far exceeded expectations for 2008 and now they meet for the first time in four years. The key stat here - the Falcons were 7-1 at home last year and should be even better this season.

Miami Dolphins (0-0)
Homefield: Dolphins Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @ATL - - -
2 IND - - -
3 @SD - - -
4 BUF - - -
5 NYJ - - -
6 BYE - - -
7 NO - - -
8 @NYJ - - -
9 @NE - - -
10 TB - - -
11 @CAR - - -
12 @BUF - - -
13 NE - - -
14 @JAC - - -
15 @TEN - - -
16 HOU - - -
17 PIT - - -
MIA at ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Chad Pennington     230,1
RB Ronnie Brown 80,1 30  
RB Ricky Williams 30 20  
TE Anthony Fasano   40,1  
WR Ted Ginn Jr.   60  
WR Brian Hartline   10  
WR Davone Bess   40  
PK Dan Carpenter 1 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Dolphins went from 1-15 in the AFC Cellar to 11-5 and winning the division the next season. That's called job security for HC Tony Sparano. And he did it without any real stars putting more than their share into the bucket. But the team played as a team, the defense came together and the offense was generally just good enough to win games. That's a good sign since the Fins did almost nothing to upgrade the offense in the offseason. This is the same offense all just one year older.

Quarterback: Chad Pennington supplied the veteran leadership that this team needed and had a career best season doing it. He threw for 3653 yards and 19 scores with only seven interceptions. Pennington's production tended to come more in spurts than a consistent level though and Miami faces a much tougher passing schedule in 2009 after having what ended up to be one of the easiest set of opponents in 2008.

The Falcons at home always allowed at least one passing score to every opponent last year and the yardage tended to be above average. Expect one passing score here along with decent yardage.

Running Backs: Ronnie Brown is one more year removed from his knee surgery and comes into the final year of his rookie contract - plenty of reasons to step up his play for 2009. His ten touchdowns last year was doubled his previous best and he should see a little more work than last year because Ricky Williams has turned 32 years old and is showing his age. Brown and Williams may split the role as a receiver but Brown will be getting more work this year as the primary runner.

The Falcons were far tougher against runners in Atlanta where most teams did not score on the ground. Expect no more than one rushing touchdown here and yardage that will likely be only moderate.

Wide Receivers: Tedd Ginn enters his third season on a nice progression of 420 yards as a rookie and then 790 yards last year. This offense is never going to be pass-heavy but what does occur will first go through Ginn who is coming into his own now. Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo have battled for the #2 spot this summer and Bess appears to have won but the rewards are not really fantasy relevant and Camarillo is not going to go quietly into that good night. Add in the rookie Brian Hartline and this unit is a mess to predict beyond Ginn.

The Falcons were actually better against wideouts than any other scoring position but the Fins just do not have much firepower there anyway. Expect no more than moderate numbers from Ginn and leave the rest alone this week.

Tight Ends: The Dolphins brought Anthony Fasano over from the Cowboys and he found a nice niche in this offense - scoring touchdowns. He caught 34 passes for 454 yards and scored seven times including four times in the final four weeks of the regular season. That was two more touchdowns than the team wideouts had combined. His lack of yardage and catches minimizes his fantasy value but catching a touchdown once every two or three weeks makes for a decent backup.

The Falcons were particularly weak against tight ends last year, ranking only 28th.

Gaining Fantasy Points MIA 17 11 26 4 24 12
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 25 22 13 28 6 2

Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
Homefield: Georgia Dome
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 MIA - - -
2 CAR - - -
3 @NE - - -
4 BYE - - -
5 @SF - - -
6 CHI - - -
7 @DAL - - -
8 @NO - - -
9 WAS - - -
10 @CAR - - -
11 @NYG - - -
12 TB - - -
13 PHI - - -
14 NO - - -
15 @NYJ - - -
16 BUF - - -
17 @TB - - -
ATL vs MIA Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan     260,2
RB Michael Turner 90,1    
RB Jerious Norwood 30 30  
TE Tony Gonzalez   60,1  
WR Michael Jenkins   50  
WR Roddy White   90,1  
PK Jason Elam 1 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: Not unlike the Dolphins, the Falcons were a bottom dwelling 4-12 team in 2007 but in the matter of one season, rose to 11-5 and nearly won the NFC South. Matt Ryan was the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Michael Turner was not only remarkably productive out of the shadow of Ladainian Tomlinson, he was actually better than Tomlinson. Granted, the team was a force at home and then average in road games but the season opens in Atlanta. And there's a new toy at tight end as well.

Quarterback: The third overall pick of the 2008 draft made good when he passed for 3440 yards and 16 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions. He would have been even more productive but Michael Turner was enough to wax opponents that dared to visit the Superdome. He only had Roddy White as a major weapon and Turner was no pass catcher. Ryan gets a tougher schedule this year but the team has acquired tony Gonzalez for an entirely new flair to the offense that rarely threw at a tight end last year.

Ryan should see some success in this game against a team that struggled to cover wide receivers last year. Half of the away games of the Dolphins allowed over 300 passing yards.

Running Backs: Michael Turner led the NFL with 376 carries last year and his 1699 rushing yards was second to only Adrian Peterson. His 17 rushing scores was second only to DeAngelo Williams. He only had six catches on the entire year but was over-used for a first year starter. The Falcons say they will want to reduce his workload in that way that all teams "want" to reduce the load of their highly effective, cannot-win-without-them running backs.

Norwood had a reasonably heavy load last year when he ran 149 times for 489 yards and four scores and added 36 catches for 338 more yards and two touchdowns. The problem is that Norwood is never consistent enough to warrant much attention as a fantasy starter but if Turner does get any more rest this year, it will be on Norwood to play more.

The Dolphins have one of the better rushing defenses and that'll get in the way of Turner opening the year on a big note. this unit allowed only one runner to top 100 rushing yards against the Fins last year and that was on a fluke long play by Larry Johnson in week 16.

This is in Atlanta, so Turner won't have a bad game but this will hardly be his best of the year either. One score at most and decent yardage.

Wide Receivers: The same crew is back - Roddy White who had no problems playing with a rookie quarterback last year since he had a career best 1382 yards and seven touchdowns. Even Michael Jenkins had a career best 777 yards on 50 catches. The only question with this unit is how much does Tony Gonzalez change the dynamics? White seems certain to get his catches but Jenkins may end up taking the step backwards and the slot becomes almost immaterial in this offense (which it already pretty much was anyway).

The Dolphins were weak against wideouts last year and players of similar caliber to White almost always had a nice game when the Dolphins came to town. No reason to avoid starting White this week but hold off on Jenkins until more about the Gonzo Effect is known.

Tight Ends: Tony Gonzalez may be getting older, but that still didn't stop him from leading all NFL tight ends last year with 155 targets, 96 catches for 1058 yards and ten touchdowns - all tops. Now he is winding down his career with a team on the upswing - something he hasn't seen in Kansas City for a long time. The Falcons only completed a total of 19 passes among all team tight ends so Ryan is going to be throwing new routes this year.

The Fins ranked great against tight ends last year but mostly because they played in the AFC East - where there are no decent tight ends. The few that they did face had nice games like Greg Olsen (6-74, 1 TD) and Owen Daniels (11-133). Figure on Gonzo starting out on the right foot on his new team.

Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 24 3 7 31 6 22
Preventing Fantasy Points MIA 23 6 28 2 18 6

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