Falcons vs. Dolphins: Three matchups to watch in Week 7

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After six weeks of football, the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins have a combined record of 3-8. While many expected the Falcons to be bad this year, the Dolphins were thought of as a possible contender with some growth out of second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. It’s too early to write off either team, but Atlanta definitely looks to be in better shape entering Sunday’s game.

Below are three matchups to watch in Week 7.

WR Calvin Ridley vs. CB Xavien Howard

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The two playmakers went back and forth when the Falcons traveled to Miami in the preseason for joint practices. Expect more of the same on Sunday. Miami employs a defensive scheme more focused on man coverage. Their top four cornerbacks all have a man-coverage percentage higher than 50. Ridley has caught six for eight targets for 60 yards when playing against man.

Talented Dolphins corner Xavien Howard allows a completion rate of just 55 percent in man coverage, but does average 7.6 yards allowed after the catch. So Ridley may not get a ton of chances, but when he does, look for him do to big things after the catch.

Slot corner vs. WR Jaylen Waddle

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The absence of Isaiah Oliver has left a void in the Falcons’ defense at the nickel corner spot. To replace Oliver, the team has used multiple players, employing a by-committee approach. In Week 7, we could see three players in rotation at this spot. Each will likely be matched up against Dolphins rookie WR Jaylen Waddle. The Alabama speedster has seen 32 of his 48 targets this season from the slot with a reception rate of 78.1 percent.

Minimizing his yards after catch will be crucial in slowing down the Miami offense. Waddle has 37 catches for 301 receiving yards and three touchdowns this season, and is coming off a 10-catch, two-touchdown performance in Week 6.

CB A.J. Terrell vs. WR DeVante Parker

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Man defense is something the Falcons don’t run very often. In fact, Fabian Moreau and Terrell have both played less than 30 percent of their snaps in man coverage. Terrell may not be a cornerback designed to shadow a specific receiver, but he will see a lot of action against DeVante Parker this Sunday. When up against zone coverage, Parker has been held to just 116 yards on seven receptions. However, he is Miami’s big-play guy as he averages almost 17 yards per reception.

To this point, Terrell has allowed only six receptions on 13 attempts and an average of seven yards per reception while in zone coverage. The most impressive stat from Terrell is his 16.2 snap average per reception allowed.

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