Monday Night Football will present and undefeated versus undefeated game this week with one of the participants being undefeated not nearly as big a surprise as the other. The Miami Dolphins have shocked a lot of people by starting this season 3-0, the New Orleans Saints being 3-0 can only be a surprise if you picked them to lose to the Atlanta Falcons on opening weekend. I did, so it’s a bit of a surprise to me.
The most surprising part of the Saints’ 3-0 start has been the play of their defense. After setting records in defensive futility last season, the Saints have done a complete 180 and now appear to be very competent on that side of the ball. Some will point to the fact that other than the Falcons game, the Saints haven’t played tough competition. This is true, but that didn’t matter last season when it came to the Saints giving up yards and points did it?
In facing Ryan Tannehill on Monday, the Saints will face their second tough test of the season at quarterback. On opening weekend, the Saints gave up 300 passing yards and two touchdowns to Matt Ryan, but those were lower-than-expected numbers, and those two TD passes were the only two touchdowns the Falcons scored in the game.
The Dolphins’ defense has also played very well to start this season. They’ve allowed an average of around only 16 points per game, and with wins over the Falcons and Indianapolis Colts, it’s not as though they have played against poor offenses.
However, Drew Brees will be by far the biggest test the Dolphins’ defense has had so far this season. The fact that the Dolphins’ D has had to go up against Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan in straight games means they should be prepared for what they’ll face Monday night. That doesn’t mean that the Dolphins will be able to contain Brees, but it shouldn’t be a shock to their collective system if Brees plays like Brees.
Tannehill’s performance this season so far indicates not only improvement, but evolution in his overall game.
Tannehill is in his second NFL season and has gotten off to a great start. The stats aren’t the best, especially when compared to the quarterbacks in the NFL that throw 40, 50, 0r 60 times a game and pass for 300 or 400 yards. However, for a second-year QB, his stats look just fine and the most important stat, wins and losses, looks great. Wins and losses are the quarterback’s most important stat because, fair or not, a win or a loss reflects more on the quarterback than anyone else on a football team.
Tannehill has also showed signs of one the most important traits a quarterback can possess: the ability to lead a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. Last week against the Falcons, Tannehill faced a one-score deficit in the final minutes of the game, only to march his team down the field and throw the winning touchdown in the final minute of the game. This was a big step for a young quarterback, and something that can give a mental boost to a team that is good, but wants to be more than good. The fact that it came against a talented team like the Falcons can only add to that mental boost.
The Saints’ offense has shown that they are vulnerable against a defense that plays well, evidenced by their poor showing on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But this is a home game on Monday night, and that will likely mean a very charged up home crowd for the Saints to feed off of. They will likely have to feed off of that home-field advantage early as the Dolphins should come into this one pumped up and with a chip on their shoulder, looking to prove to the entire league that they are for real.
In the end, I see the more experienced quarterback being able to roll with the punches in a spotlight game much better than the young quarterback playing in what is really his first spotlight game as a pro. The Dolphins will play admirably and keep things close for the majority of the game before Brees and the Saints will their way into total control for the final quarter and a half and cruise to victory.
My Prediction: New Orleans (-6.5) 31, Miami 21
Straight Up: 3-0