Atlanta Falcons: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 3

Al BruceContributor ISeptember 17, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 15: Jason Snelling #44 of the Atlanta Falcons scores a 4th quarter touchdown against the St. Louis Rams at the Georgia Dome on September 15, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The 1-1 Atlanta Falcons head to South Florida this week to take on a 2-0 Miami Dolphins team that will be making its home debut following consecutive road wins at Cleveland and Indianapolis.

With ex-Falcons Tyson Clabo and Brent Grimes now wearing Dolphins uniforms, this game certainly won't be lacking for intrigue.

Let's set the stage for Sunday's Week 3 contest by taking our weekly look at the NFC South standings, discussing Atlanta's growing injury list and touching on what the Falcons need to improve if they want to hand Miami its first loss on Sunday.

 

NFC SOUTH DIVISION STANDINGS

 

TeamWLDivisionConferenceWeek 3
New Orleans202-02-0vs. Arizona
Atlanta110-11-1@ Miami
Carolina020-00-1vs. New York Giants
Tampa Bay020-10-1

@ New England

 

The Falcons are in sole possession of second place in the division after both Carolina (24-23 loss at Buffalo) and Tampa Bay (16-14 loss vs. New Orleans) saw games slip through their fingers on Sunday.  Carolina has now lost two games by six points, while both of Tampa's losses have come by a total of three points.  Tampa is in now in danger of falling to 0-3 with a game at New England on the horizon.

New Orleans has taken early control of the division by winning consecutive NFC South bouts against the Falcons and Bucs.  The Saints will look to move to 3-0 with a win at home on Sunday versus the Cardinals, and the Panthers will battle the Giants in a rematch of last year's 36-7 New York win in Charlotte.

It's still very early, but a Falcons loss at Miami coupled with a Saints win at home against Arizona would give the Saints a two-game cushion in the division.  Given that Atlanta is in what many considered to be the lighter part of its schedule, the Falcons can't afford to fall too far behind the Saints if they want to defend their NFC South crown.

 

INJURY REPORT

 

PlayerPositionInjuryOut For
Kroy BiermannOLB/DEAchilles' HeelSeason
Bradie EwingFBSeparated ShoulderSeason
Steven JacksonRBThigh Bruise2-4 Weeks
Asante SamuelCBThighUnknown, did not return vs. Rams
Sean WeatherspoonOLBFoot SprainPlaced on short-term IR, will be out until at least November
Roddy WhiteWRHigh Ankle Sprain

 

The Falcons lost two key contributors when Kroy Biermann and Bradie Ewing were placed on injured reserve with season-ending injuries following Sunday's game.  Biermann's versatility won't be easy to replace on defense, but the Falcons will likely look to Jonathan Massaquoi, Malliciah Goodman and Joplo Bartu to collectively fill Biermann's roles as opposed signing a veteran free agent.

As for Bradie Ewing, the Falcons could use Jason Snelling at fullback or bring Patrick DiMarco up from the practice squad.  Ewing demonstrated some pass-catching ability in his first regular-season action this year after missing his rookie season with a knee injury.

Sean Weatherspoon has been placed on short-term injured reserve, meaning that he will miss at least eight weeks according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.  The Falcons have added free agent linebackers Jamar Chaney and Omar Gaither to help replenish their thin linebacker corps.  Joplo Bartu, Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas are going to to have hold down the fort while Weatherspoon is gone.

Look for Atlanta to lean more on Jason Snelling over the next couple of weeks in light of Steven Jackson's injury.

Roddy White played on his sprained ankle for the second week in a row, but he still appears to be limited.

 

WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE

Once again, it all starts up front for Atlanta.

The Falcons only managed 36 yards on 16 carries against the Rams, and with or without Steven Jackson, they'll need to do a better job on the ground on the road against Miami to help slow down the Dolphins pass rush.

In addition, although the pass protection improved slightly in Week 2, the Falcons offensive line will have to deal with crowd noise again on Sunday (though probably not as loud as it was in the Superdome) as the team heads on the road again this week.

Defensively, Atlanta needs to be ready to deal with Ryan Tannehill's mobility and an improved Dolphins receiving corps headlined by Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline that will certainly test Atlanta's young cornerback group.

Most importantly, if the Falcons manage to get an early lead against the Dolphins, they must avoid the second- and third-quarter lulls that recently cost the team leads on the road and at home.

We'll discuss these issues and more this week as we look ahead to Sunday's game between the Falcons and Dolphins.

 

 

All stats are via ESPN.com, all injury information is via NFL.com and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution