Dolphins, Saints hook up
September 30, 2013
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MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-0) at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (3-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: New Orleans -7.5 & 49
Opening Line & Total: Saints -6 & 48
Both the Dolphins and the Saints look to remain undefeated when the two square off in New Orleans on Monday night.
Miami is coming off a last-minute victory over the Falcons that helped them remain unbeaten. The Saints, on the other hand, improved to 3-0 with a 31-7 blowout victory over the Cardinals. Since head coach Sean Payton returned from a year-long suspension, New Orleans looks like a completely different team than they did a year ago. Since 1992, these teams have met just five times with New Orleans holding the 3-2 overall advantage and 2-1 home edge, both SU and ATS. The most recent meeting was a 46-34 win-and-cover in favor of the Saints in October of 2009, when QB Drew Brees threw for 298 yards and scored three touchdowns (1 passing, 2 rushing), but also tossed three picks. Brees has won his past eight Monday night games, throwing for 2,467 yards (308 YPG) with 24 TD and just 5 INT. The Saints are 17-6 ATS (74%) in dome games and 18-7 ATS (72%) in all games played on turf over the past three seasons. They are also 10-1 ATS as home favorites of seven points or less during that span. One trend that favors Miami is that the Dolphins are 7-0 ATS off a non-conference game over the past three seasons, winning those seven contests by an average score of 27 to 12.
The Dolphins are coming off of an impressive home victory over the Falcons in which QB Ryan Tannehill led a game-winning drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Dion Sims with 43 seconds remaining to give Miami the 27-23 win. Tannehill played a strong game for the Dolphins, going 24-of-35 for 236 yards with 2 TD and 1 INT. Tannehill connected with four different receivers for at least four receptions in the game. His top target on the day was WR Brandon Gibson, who had six catches for 49 yards. WR Brian Hartline also hauled in four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. The one disappointment was top WR Mike Wallace who caught just two passes, which came one week after a monster nine-catch, 115-yard performance. RB Lamar Miller had only eight carries in the game, but they were productive as he rushed for 62 yards (7.8 YPC). However, Miami still needs to improve its offensive balance with an above-average passing game (249 passing YPG, 14th in NFL), but the fifth-worst rushing attack (70 rushing YPG). On defense, Dannell Ellerbe was a standout last week as he recorded 10 tackles and was all over the field making plays. The Dolphins, however, failed to record a sack, and lost DE/LB Cameron Wake (15 sacks in 2012) for 2-to-3 weeks with a knee injury. Miami's defensive ranks are below average both against the pass (263 YPG, 20th in NFL) and the run (109 YPG, 19th in league), but it has forced six turnovers.
The Saints are undefeated this season and while a lot of the praise may go to Sean Payton, plenty of it should be going to new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. New Orleans hasn't let an opponent score more than 17 points so far this season, after being one of the worst defense in the league last year when they surrendered an NFL-high 440 total YPG and gave up the second-most points at 28.4 PPG. In Sunday's 31-7 victory over Arizona, the Saints allowed just 247 total yards, recorded four sacks and forced two turnovers for the third straight game. On offense, QB Drew Brees went 29-of-46 with 342 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also added 21 yards on the ground with a 7-yard rushing touchdown. TE Jimmy Graham was his number one target and he was absolutely unstoppable, catching nine of the 15 passes intended for him for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Top WR Marques Colston pitched in five receptions for 71 yards on the day. While the Saints will look to throw early and often with their fourth-ranked passing offense (319 YPG), the ground game needs some work, gaining just 86 YPG (24th in NFL) with zero running back touchdowns. RB Mark Ingram (toe) is doubtful for this contest, meaning RBs Pierre Thomas (4.0 YPC) and Darren Sproles (3.6 YPC) will be the main ball carriers.