Miami has controlled this series leading it 9-4 overall. Even as the Falcons have fostered a better team in the last decade, the Dolphins have found ways to win. They first met in 1970 where Miami won 20-7 and was the first of four straight wins all the way until 1983.
Save for a few blowouts like the 42-7 Dolphins route in 1974 or a Falcons' 38-16 win in 1998, the majority of the series were decided by a touchdown or less. Miami won six of their first seven appearances but the series would be tied 3-3 after that.
The Dolphins have won the last two meetings during the 2013 and 2017 season but only by a combined seven points. They won in 2017 as a 14-point underdog playing in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Falcons. Atlanta outgained Miami in yards and went up 17-0 at halftime. Miami would storm back and score 20 unanswered points.
Atlanta has regressed since Steve Sarkisian took over as the offensive coordinator for Kyle Shanahan. Their once-potent offence has become average and has struggled to score as evidenced by their collapse against Miami. Though the Dolphins are rebuilding, future meetings between the two should be close even if betting lines don't reflect it.
Miami Dolphins Recent History
You can look at the Dolphins' history as a tale of two eras: the Don Shula era, and the post-Shula era. The former is the franchise's peak. In Shula's 25 years coaching Miami (1970-1995), the Dolphins would win two Super Bowls in five appearances and would win 11 division championships.
The post-Shula era was mediocre at best. Miami would only win two division titles and not making it further than the divisional round in the playoffs. They would go through more coaches than they would have playoff appearances. From 2002 to 2017, the Dolphins have only managed two playoff appearances.
Miami hasn't had consecutive winning seasons since 2002 to 2003 and they have only two winning seasons in the last decade. Yet the franchise remains popular despite their lack of success. Undergoing yet another rebuild, Miami is still looking for that formula to make them elite again.
Atlanta Falcons Recent History
The Falcons began play in 1966 just like the Dolphins but have had significantly less success. Unlike their AFC (then-AFL) counterparts, the Falcons didn't enjoy any consistent success and have only made sporadic playoff appearances. They reached their first Super Bowl in 1998 where they lost.
Atlanta would continue their inconsistency all the way to the late 2000's where they would finally string together two consecutive winning seasons during 2008 and 2009 yet they wouldn't make consecutive playoff appearances until the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
The franchise's fortunes have changed for the better beginning those years thanks largely to the arrival of Ryan, who has given Atlanta an elite quarterback. With other prolific players built around him and a defence that still remains one of the division's best, the Falcons should finally enjoy long-term success.
Miami Dolphins Outlook
The Dolphins had the most roster turnover among AFC teams this offseason. Gone are a dozen key players from the previous seasons including a quarter of their offence, main pieces of their front-seven on defence and even kicker Cody Parkey.
In are veterans on offence like running back Frank Gore, slot receiver Danny Amendola, and offensive linesmen Josh Sitton and Daniel Kilgore. On defence, Miami drafted Minkah Fitzpatrick to play safety while adding elite pass rusher Robert Quinn who is looking for a career resurgence.
Tannehill is coming back at quarterback and will be backed up by Brock Osweiler. Miami is also switching offensive coordinators with former Bear Dowell Loggains now taking over. The next season is a write-off but Miami can use it to learn a new offence and build for the future. Expect a bit roster turnover for the next few years.
Atlanta Falcons Outlook
This is the best team Atlanta has had. Period. They hardly have any weaknesses although their coaching staff is on a short leash following 2017's disappointing season. Sarkisian, specifically has the hottest seat as he single-handedly turned the NFL's most exciting offence into a pedestrian one.
But with talents like Ryan, Jones, and the twin-headed running back attack of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, it shouldn't be too hard to score points. And even if the offence falters like it did in 2016, the defence will pick up the slack.
Atlanta has Pro Bowlers in almost every position: linebackers Deion Jones and Vic Beasley and secondary players, Keanu Neal (S) and Desmond Trufant (CB). They also added Oliver, who is a corner built like a Richard Sherman. This team has all the talent to win and if they live up to their billing, multiple Super Bowl appearances are possible.
The first teams should play for at least a half. Ryan will lead the Falcons offence looking to demonstrate more chemistry with the coaching staff. They should light up the patchwork Dolphins' defence even with the presence of Quinn, who will be negated by the Falcons' strong offensive line.
The Dolphins' weak front-seven will be torched either way. The Falcons' talented backs will run circles around them or Ryan will feel little pressure and use his new weapons at receiver to burn whoever Miami has in the secondary. Reshad Jones (S) remains Miami's only threat as Fitzpatrick is still raw and will need seasoning.
As far as the second unit, Schaub is a superior quarterback to Osweiler. They were both Texans and Schaub is significantly older but also has better weapons including a better offensive line. Osweiler couldn't cut it as a starter on first teams and he'll be playing with Miami's scraps.
It's easy to predict a Falcons blowout but give the Dolphins some credit and they'll make this a close game.