New Orleans Saints vs. Miami Doplhins: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 30, 2017 at 11:58 AM
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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (1-2) VS. MIAMI DOLPHINS (1-1)

GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF: Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET, Wembley Stadium (London), TV: FOX, Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver (Field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 6-5. The Saints have won the last two meetings, prevailing 38-17 in 2013 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and 46-34 in 2009 in what's now known as Land Shark Stadium. In the 2009 meeting, New Orleans matched the largest comeback victory in franchise history as it overcame a 24-3 second-quarter deficit. Less than four months later, the Saints returned to the same stadium and defeated Indianapolis 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Saints would love a repeat performance from last week's win against the Panthers, which would mean running the ball effectively early, making things easier for quarterback Drew Brees. Miami can't afford to let Brees sit back comfortably in the pocket, but the Dolphins' secondary needs tighter coverage to give the pass rushers time to make their presence felt. Miami's pass defense has allowed good days by Chargers QB Philip Rivers (331 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, 110.6 passer rating) and Jets QB Josh McCown (249 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, 126.3 passer rating).

Miami has just two offensive touchdowns in two games and Jay Cutler faced consistent pressure against the Jets last week. Miami must establish the running game with Jay Ajayi so the Saints' pass rush can't create havoc up front. New Orleans had a strong pass rush against Carolina, which contributed to three interceptions. The Dolphins have trailed by a combined score of 20-3 at halftime in its two games.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Saints QB Drew Brees vs. Dolphins CBs Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard. Brees and the passing game should enter this game confident after carving up a Carolina defense that hadn't allowed a touchdown in the previous two games and now Brees has his full complement of receivers. Maxwell and Howard have had a tough time against the Chargers and Jets, who don't have weapons to match the Saints.

--Dolphins WR DeVante Parker, who has been a favorite target of QB Jay Cutler on 50-50 balls, vs. Saints rookie CB Marshon Lattimore, the 11th pick of the draft. Parker (12 receptions, 161 yards, one touchdown) has been hot and cold this season, but his athleticism has always been on display and his size (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) is an advantage. Lattimore, who has good size at 6-foot, 193 pounds, will be tested by a player who has good chemistry with QB Jay Cutler.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

--Out: LB Ben Heeney (knee)

--Questionable: T Terron Armstead (shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (chest), WR Willie Snead (hamstring), T Zach Strief (knee)

MIAMI DOLPHINS

--Out: T Eric Smith (knee)

--Doubtful: DT Jordan Phillips (ankle)

--Questionable: RB Jay Ajayi (knee), LB Chase Allen (neck), LB Kiko Alonso (shoulder), G Isaac Asiata (ankle), LS John Denney (hamstring), WR Jakeem Grant (ankle), LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring), WR Kenny Stills (hand), CB Alterraun Verner (hamstring)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: SLB Lawrence Timmons: All eyes will be on the 10-year veteran. After missing the season's first two games -- one being inactive, the other being suspended, Timmons will try to smoothly blend back into the defense. Undoubtedly, there will be some rust because Timmons hasn't practiced in about two weeks, since going AWOL the day before the opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. Timmons figures to make the run defense and pass defense better because he's a proven veteran. But whether that shows Sunday against New Orleans in London, well, that's why he's in the spotlight.

FAST FACTS: QB Drew Brees has 867 pass yards (289 per game), 6 TDs and no interceptions for a 109.7 rating in past three games. RB Mark Ingram has 1,118 scrimmage yards (93.2 per game) and 4 TDs (3 rush, 1 rec.) in past 12 games vs. the AFC. RB Adrian Peterson had 140 rush yards and 2 TDs in his only game at Wembley (9/29/13 vs. Pit. with Min.). WR Michael Thomas led the team with 7 catches for 87 yards and a TD in Week 3. DE Alex Okafor had a sack and forced fumble last week. ... The Dolphins play in London for the 3rd time in the past 4 seasons and 4th time overall. QB Jay Cutler passed for 226 yards with a TD in his only game at Wembley (10/23/11 vs. TB with Chi.). RB Jay Ajayi hails from London. He has 403 rush yards (100.8 per game) and a rushing TD in his past 4 games. He is 1 of 4 NFL RBs with 1,400-plus rush yards (1,410) and 4.7-plus yards per carry avg. (4.72) since 2016. WR Kenny Stills had 95 catches for 1,572 yards and 8 TDs in 2 seasons with New Orleans (2013-14).

PREDICTION: The Saints head overseas with some momentum following their dismantling of Carolina in Week 3. Miami will travel a long way to be handed another beating.

OUR PICK: Saints, 34-16.

--ELLEN PORT.

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