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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
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
STL
 
Final
ORL 100
MIL 115
Final
IND 103
NYK 82
Final
MEM 99
DEN 69
4th
LAL 84
CHI 78
 
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
MIN
 
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
HOU
 
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
POR
 
7:30pm Tonight
CLE
SAC
 
7:30pm Tonight
BRK
TOR
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIA
DAL
 
8:00pm Tonight
NOP
LAC
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
GSW
 
10:30pm Tonight
PHO
CHI
 
Final
PROV 83
DEP 72
Final
RUTG 51
MSU 71
Final
ARMY 71
BU 67
 
Final
RFLSH 75
BRY 68
 
Final
MERC 75
CHAT 72
 
Final
LIU 67
CCST 55
 
Final
TOWS 74
COC 70
 
Final
UMASS 66
DAY 64
Final
FUR 59
ETST 55
 
Final
ODU 71
FIU 56
Final
RMU 87
FD 65
 
Final
CHAR 86
FATL 61
Final
LIB 53
HIGH 72
 
Final
UNF 86
KNST 67
 
Final
FLGC 78
LIP 62
 
Final
OSU 80
MD 56
Final
Terriers 73
MNTER 67
 
Final
STET 85
NKENTUCKY 75
 
Final
WAGN 75
SHU 64
 
Final
GMAS 68
STLU 60
Final
JVU 65
USCU 78
 
Final
VMI 70
WCU 85
 
Final
LATU 69
WKENT 56
Final
UNCG 42
WOFF 58
 
Final
DET 93
YOUNG 87
 
Final
GSOUT 83
APP 46
 
Final
TENNM 81
EILL 51
 
Final
GHND 64
HC 54
 
Final
CIN 70
UCONN 58
Final
NDST 61
DEN 54
 
Final
SD 55
MAST 66
 
Final
UWMIL 71
ILLCH 65
 
Final
BEL 103
JVST 82
 
Final
SMISS 54
MARS 69
Final
TXSA 69
MTST 58
Final
PETE 49
RIDE 58
 
Final
SEMIZ 61
SIUE 75
 
Final
TENST 64
TENT 56
 
Final
NDAK 60
WEBER 67
 
Final
SALA 89
LALAF 85
 
Final
ARKST 65
ARKLR 75
 
Final
TROY 55
LAMON 58
 
Final
TXARL 74
UGST 88
 
Final
MURST 85
EKENT 78
 
Final
NCOL 79
IDST 76
 
Final
MIZZ 53
KENT 69
Final
GONZ 64
PORT 46
Final
UTEP 71
UAB 69
Final
GRCN 78
UMKC 57
 
Final
WLVRN 78
CHIST 62
 
3rd OT
USC 87
COL 89
 
Final
UCI 67
CPSL 57
 
Final
CSNO 73
HAW 84
 
Final
PAC 43
PEPP 50
 
Final
SDU 69
SCU 64
 
Final
UCD 70
UCSB 64
 
Final
UCLA 69
UTAH 59
 
Final
PORST 54
MONT 73
 
Final
SACST 75
MNTST 59
 
2nd
CSFU 68
LBSU 59
 
2nd
GAELS 65
LMU 54
 
2nd
WASU 42
CAL 44
 
2nd
BYU 46
USF 42
 
6:00pm Tonight
PRIN
HARV
 
7:00pm Tonight
CORN
BRO
 
7:00pm Tonight
PENN
DART
 
7:00pm Tonight
NIAG
MAR
 
7:00pm Tonight
CAN
QUIN
 
7:00pm Tonight
MAN
SIENA
 
8:00pm Tonight
WILL
IUPUI
 
8:00pm Tonight
FAIR
MON
 
8:00pm Tonight
ARST
OREG
 
8:00pm Tonight
CLMB
YALE
 
10:00pm Tonight
BUF
KSU
 
10:00pm Tonight
ARZ
ORST
 
Final
NYI 2
BOS 5
Final
NYR 0
MON 1
Final
PHI 5
WIN 2
Final
TOR 1
ARI 3
Final
FLA 3
CLB 2
Final
TAM 5
DET 1
Final
STL 5
NAS 4
Final
CAL 0
MIN 1
Final
EDM 3
BUF 2
3rd
SJS 6
ANA 2
 
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
PIT
 
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
STL
 
9:00pm Tonight
COL
NAS
 
10:00pm Tonight
VAN
BUF
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
CHI