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NFL Preview - Miami (3-0) at New Orleans (3-0)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Laissez les bons temps rouler.

That's the Cajun phrase which means: "Let the good times roll."

And the good times are certainly rolling again in New Orleans now that head coach Sean Payton is back on the sidelines after a year away from the game due to the Bountygate scandal.

Fresh off a dominating 31-7 win over Arizona at the Superdome, the unbeaten Saints will host the Miami Dolphins on "Monday Night Football" in a matchup of two of the NFL's seven unblemished teams entering Week 4.

A methodical offense spearheaded by All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees and an improved attacking defense under new coordinator Rob Ryan have spurred the Saints to their third 3-0 start under Payton.

New Orleans has improved to 4-0 only three times in franchise history: 1991, 1993 and 2009.

The Saints compiled a season-high 423 total net yards against the Cardinals in Week 3 behind Brees, who completed 29-of-46 passes for 342 yards with three touchdowns. The Pro-Bowler's top target was tight end Jimmy Graham, who led the team in receiving with nine receptions for 134 yards and two TDs and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Ryan's defense, meanwhile, only allowed one score on the opening drive of the game and two entries into the red zone. Emerging defensive star Cameron Jordan recorded two sacks, while cornerback Keenan Lewis, a free agent acquisition from Pittsburgh, and rookie first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro each intercepted Cards QB Carson Palmer.

"It's early but we're pleased with the start," Payton said. "As there is every week, there are some things we want to look at and clean up and get corrected."

The Saints will face a stiff challenge on Monday from a rejuvenated Dolphins team under second-year head coach Joe Philbin, who has Miami off to its first 3-0 start since 2002.

Sophomore QB Ryan Tannehill threw his second touchdown pass with 38 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter in Week 3, sending the Dolphins to a 27-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

After Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant missed a 35-yard field goal wide right that would have given the Falcons a six-point lead with 4:46 to play, Tannehill led the Dolphins on a 13-play drive that ended with Dion Sims' one-handed, over-the-shoulder grab from a yard out off play-action.

"I didn't really think about the situation, everything was just instinctive," Sims said. "The linebacker grabbed my arm so I just reached up with my free arm and brought it in."

Miami safety Jimmy Wilson them picked off Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan to seal the win.

Tannehill completed 24-of-35 passes for 236 yards with Sims and receiver Brian Hartline catching scoring passes.

The Saints and Dolphins have met 10 times in the regular season with Miami holding a 6-4 all-time series edge. NOLA captured the last contest, a 46-34 victory on Oct. 25, 2009 in Miami, a game in which the Saints matched their biggest comeback in franchise history when they rebounded from a 24-3 deficit with five seconds left in the first half.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

In Week 3, Brees extended his streak of consecutive 300-yard passing games to eight, a game behind his own NFL record. He has also won eight consecutive starts on "Monday Night Football" and has a 120.6 passer rating in those contests, completing 194-of-273 passes (71.1 percent) for 2,467 yards (308.4 per game) with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

"We are focusing on an excellent New Orleans team we have to get ready for," Philbin said. "We have to do a lot of preparation and a little extra work to get familiar with their schemes and personnel."

Getting familiar with Brees is far easier said than done. He's on a very short list of signal callers -- along with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and perhaps Ryan -- who can comprehend everything being thrown at him by an opposing defense and adjust on the fly at the line of scrimmage.

"With Drew it starts with being efficient, leading his team to opportunities to win," Payton said. "He's someone that's very prepared, very accurate and gets rid of the ball very quickly. The expectation level that he has for himself is very high."

Graham, a matchup nightmare from the slot who leads the Saints in all receiving categories with 23 receptions for 358 yards and four TDs, has been Brees' go-to-guy early the season.

"He's very tall, he's got very good athleticism and very good ball skills," Payton said when asked about his tight end. "His ability to transition in routes and torque his body in ways that allow him to catch balls behind, balls on-top or balls low (really helps)."

"He's kind of hard to match up with, no matter how big or fast you are and I think more so than anything is his fire and passion for the game," Brees added. "He wants to be a great player, he's very versatile, very athletic. I think his basketball background certainly helps him in that regard. I kind of know what that basketball background can do for you as far as body position, body control, your ability to kind of see the ball, go up and get it."

Philbin will need to find a way to slow the Brees-to-Graham juggernaut down a bit. Cornerback Brent Grimes knows Brees and Co. well from his time in Atlanta while the Miami pass rush -- led by Cameron Wake -- really needs to bring it.

Wake, however, has been listed as questionable on the Dolphins' injury report due to a sprained MCL. Miami defensive tackle Paul Soliai and linebacker Koa Misi are also iffy for the contest.

The Saints defense has been bolstered by Rob Ryan along with the additions of Lewis and Vaccaro in the defensive backfield as well as the emergence of Jordan up front. Jordan, the son of former Vikings Pro Bowl tight end Steve Jordan, leads New Orleans with three sacks.

Ryan's unit is also dealing with some injuries though as defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (calf) and safety Roman Harper (knee) have already been ruled out.

The Dolphins offense isn't all that dynamic but they have excelled when it counts. Miami has outscored opponents 41-16 in the second half this season and leads the NFL in red zone efficiency at 87.5 percent.

"I think it's an all-around effort. I think guys are comfortable in the system now, being our second year here," Tannehill said of the team's improved offense.

Meanwhile, Tannehill has proved to be one of the better QBs in the fourth quarter this season, completing 21-of-28 passes for 192 yards in the final frame.

"He's certainly confident, you can just see that," Payton said when discussing Tannehill. "Most importantly, that position, the key is to lead their team to wins and give them a chance and you can see him do that."

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Dolphins look like a legitimate contender in the AFC East but getting the better of Brees in the Superdome at this stage is a little too much to ask for a second-year QB like Tannehill who is still trying to feel his way through the process.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saints 30, Dolphins 20

09/30 09:02:24 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UNC 66
BUT 74
Final
ECU 73
HAW 75
Final
DUKE 93
FUR 54
Final
CHA 97
POR 105
Final
NCSU 84
RICH 72
Final
FLA 1
CAR 0
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
UCLA
 
Final
PHI 91
BRK 99
Final
ORL 96
GSW 111
Final
CHA 97
POR 105
Final
CLE 113
WAS 87
Final
DET 98
LAC 104
Final
DAL 109
NYK 102
Final
ATL 115
TOR 126
Final
MIN 86
MIL 103
Final
HOU 102
SAC 89
Final
OKC 97
UTA 82
Final
SAN 106
IND 100
Final
PHO 120
DEN 112
Final
LAL 93
MEM 99
7:30pm Tonight
TEXAM
LSU
7:30pm Tonight
TEX
TCU
Final
UNC 66
BUT 74
Final
FRES 64
MAR 68
Final
CHAT 61
RMU 46
Final
EMICH 68
ROCH 35
 
Final
MRGST 51
LIB 50
 
Final
HAMP 60
AMER 64
 
Final
BEL 78
DEN 57
Final
UMASS 79
NE 54
Final
JMU 79
SHU 72
 
Final
KNST 84
SAMF 71
 
Final
ECU 73
HAW 75
Final
CHAM 60
MIZZ 74
Final
CCAR 61
LAMON 48
Final
OKLA 75
UCLA 65
Final
ELON 65
UNF 72
 
Final
UWMIL 66
ORU 69
Final
WCU 66
CHIST 61
Final
DUKE 93
FUR 54
Final
BYU 85
PURD 87
Final
EVAN 79
USF 72
Final
COL 71
GTDNS 75
 
Final
VERM 73
BRY 47
 
Final
OSU 91
CAMP 64
Final
LOU 45
CLST 33
Final
UCF 69
DAVID 95
Final
IONA 126
DELST 76
 
Final
OU 78
UGST 83
Final
TOWS 97
GOUCHER 43
 
Final
ND 81
GRAM 54
 
Final
YALE 82
LAF 60
 
Final
GWU 91
LONG 66
 
Final
VT 78
UMO 63
Final
WAKE 83
MNTER 49
 
Final
NAVY 67
PSUHARRIS 42
 
Final
NCSU 84
RICH 72
Final
MINN 61
STJ 70
Final
JVU 69
TRINBAPT 57
 
Final
YOUNG 66
UMKC 63
 
Final
UAB 43
WISC 72
Final
CORN 67
CAN 60
Final
WVU 103
VMI 72
Final
DEP 74
LEH 86
 
Final
UNT 67
MVSU 52
 
Final
MARS 68
MORE 77
Final
TCU 74
RAD 50
 
Final
SELA 86
TENT 65
 
Final
SMU 72
TXSOU 59
 
Final
UTAH 85
TXPA 48
Final
LMU 66
UCR 62
Final
SCAR 89
UNCA 75
 
Final
SD 86
WAYNEST 69
 
Final
PITT 70
KYST 47
Final
UWGB 59
FLGC 45
Final
IOWA 70
NILL 49
Final
ORST 69
AUB 71
Final
MONT 75
CARROLLMT 52
 
Final
SUTAH 64
EKENT 73
Final
NMST 78
FAM 33
 
Final
WYO 65
STET 41
 
Final
EWASH 81
NKENTUCKY 60
 
Final
IDST 57
WLVRN 60
 
Final
GEOR 66
UF 65
Final
GONZ 88
UGA 76
Final
NIOWA 61
NW 42
Final
CAL 72
CPSL 52
Final
UCD 77
UTST 70
Final
SDST 59
ARZ 61
Final
NDAK 75
ALAST 68
Final
CSNO 55
PORST 63
Final
AKAN 62
PAC 71
Final
OKST 73
TULSA 58
Final
COLST 76
MIZST 61
12:00pm Today
TENN
SCU
 
12:00pm Today
RMU
LAMON
 
1:00pm Today
BUT
OKLA
 
2:00pm Today
BRO
PEAY
 
2:00pm Today
UTEP
PRIN
 
2:30pm Today
CHAT
CCAR
 
2:30pm Today
RIU
KU
 
3:30pm Today
USCU
FIU
 
3:30pm Today
GEOR
WISC
 
4:00pm Today
USB
LIU
 
4:30pm Today
XAV
SDU
 
5:00pm Tonight
INDST
ILL
 
6:00pm Tonight
WRST
CSFU
 
6:00pm Tonight
STJOE
WKENT
 
6:30pm Tonight
RIDE
MSU
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
UCLA
 
8:30pm Tonight
WMICH
LBSU
 
8:30pm Tonight
GT
MARQ
 
9:00pm Tonight
PVU
STEPH
 
9:30pm Tonight
MERC
RICE
 
9:30pm Tonight
UF
UAB
 
11:00pm Tonight
WASH
SJST
 
11:59pm Tonight
MEM
BAY
 
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
WASU
 
Final
NYI 3
WAS 2
Final
BUF 1
WIN 2
Final
FLA 1
CAR 0
Final
TAM 4
NYR 3
Final
DET 5
PHI 2
Final
PIT 4
TOR 3
Final
MIN 0
LOS 4
Final
COL 2
CHI 3
Final
SJS 0
CAL 2
8:00pm Tonight
NAS
EDM
 
12:30pm Today
DET
CHI
4:30pm Today
DAL
PHI
8:30pm Tonight
SFX
SEA