By Abraham Gutierrez
The 2017 edition of the NFL International Series continues with an intriguing matchup as the (1-1) Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints (1-2) square off for the first time in four years. The last time these teams met dates back to the 2013 season, when NOLA successfully protected their home field with a 38-17 win over the Fins.
The Saints come in leading the overall head-to-head series 6-5-0 and riding a two-game winning streak over the Dolphins. The last time Miami defeated New Orleans was during the 2005 NFL season when they went into Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA and stunned the home team, 21-6.
Wembley Stadium in London, England, will be filled to capacity for this interconference Week 4 showdown. Opening kickoff is scheduled for Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. ET live on FOX.
Saints 2017 NFL record 1-2-0
Led by 2006 NFL Coach of the Year Sean Payton, the Saints are off to a 1-2 start and, thus, sit in the cellar of the NFC South division. Nevertheless, schedule difficulty has played a major role in New Orleans’ slow start.
Payton’s bunch kicked off the 2017 NFL season by visiting the Minnesota Vikings (2-1) and hosted the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (2-1)— the NFL’s top two offenses in terms of yards per game—before finally getting in the win column with last week’s victory at the (2-1) Carolina Panthers.
Saints on Offense
Pete Carmichael is the Saints’ offensive coordinator and is considered one of the most brilliant offensive minds in all of football. It’s no surprise that in the Big Easy, everything starts and ends with longtime signal-caller Drew Brees, who appears to be in mid-season form.
With three games in the books, New Orleans’ aerial attack ranks fifth in the National Football League with 282 yards per contest. This bunch is also sixth in the NFL in total yards per game (378) and 11th in points scored (24). Their weakest area is the rushing attack, where they rank 18th averaging 97 yards per week.
Thus far this season, wide receiver Michael Thomas (17 grabs, 221 yards, TD) has been Brees’ favorite target in terms of catches and yards. Meanwhile, tight end Coby Fleener and wideout Brandon Coleman are currently tied for team honors with two touchdown receptions apiece.
Saints on Defense
Under the direction of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, the Saints “D” has some work to do in the early going. While the difficulty of their schedule is certainly worth noting, the former Raiders head coach has to be disappointed with the numbers through three games.
Allen employs a flexible defensive scheme, comprised of multiple looks that’s currently ranked 24th in rushing yards (127), 30th in points (26) and passing yards (311), and penultimate in total yards allowed per game (438).
As a unit, the Saints defense has yielded 70 first downs, including 22-of-40 conversions on third down, as well as a total of eight touchdowns. Time of possession has also been an issue thus far, as they’ve let teams hold on to the ball for 31 minutes and 44 seconds each game compared to their offense’s 28:15-mark.
Saints Players to Watch: Drew Brees, Cameron Jordan
For over a decade, quarterback Drew Brees (2017 NFL season: 76-111, 867 yards, 6 TDs, no INTs, 109.7 QBR) has been the offensive player to watch anytime the New Orleans Saints are on any team’s docket. Despite their 1-2 start, this year is no different. The Fins will have to prepare to face the 10-time Pro Bowler and 2-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, who comes in ranked third in the league in passing yards and is in the top-10 in QBR.
On the opposite side of the rock, Jay Cutler and the Miami offensive line will have to try and contain defensive end Cameron Jordan. Widely regarded as the best defender on the Saints roster, the seventh-year man out of Cal is tied for team highs in sacks (2.0) to go along with his 15 tackles (8 total, 7 assist) and a pass defended.
In spite of Miami’s poor showing against the NY Jets last week, NFL Week 4 oddsmakers aren’t coming down too hard on them. This is evident by the fact that the New Orleans Saints (-2½) come into this contest as only two-and-a-half-point favorites versus the Miami Dolphins (+2½). This is also expected to be a high-scoring affair, or a one-sided beating, as the OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 50 points.