As the first quarter of the 2013 NFL season comes to a close, six teams have yet to lose their first game. By Tuesday morning, that number will be down to five.
The Monday game in Week Four features two teams with a perfect record. The New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins both enter the contest at 3-0.
Both clubs are off to hot starts, but they appear to be viewed very differently by most experts. After missing the playoffs at 7-9 in 2012, the Saints have recovered to be the contender that many expected. With Sean Payton back on the sidelines following the Bountygate scandal, New Orleans is one of the favorites in the NFC. The Dolphins are in a similar position as the Saints, starting off undefeated after finishing two games under .500 last year. Miami, however, isn’t universally seen as a force to be reckoned with in the AFC.
The betting line has doubled since it was first set at the end of Week Three, making the Saints seven-point favorites. Only the Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars were bigger underdogs in Week Four. The Eagles played the Super Bowl favorite Denver Broncos and the Jaguars have lost every game by double-digits.
The point spread can be partially explained by New Orleans’s dominance at home, but it may have more to with Miami. Despite wins against the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons, expectations for the Dolphins have remained the same. Their Super bowl odds remain unchanged from the offseason, according to Bovada.
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A win on Monday night could solidify the Dolphins as one of the best teams in football. One of the biggest reasons for the team’s improvement from last year has been the play of Ryan Tannehill. The quarterback no longer looks like the rookie that threw more interceptions than touchdowns in 2012. In his first season, 26 starting quarterbacks had a better passer rating than Tannehil. In 2013, he’s in the top 10 in rating, completion percentage and yards per attempt.
The Saints should have a chance to slow down Tannehill by putting pressure on the quarterback. The Dolphins offensive line has been susceptible to the pass rush, allowing him to be sacked 14 times, which was a league-high at the start of the week. New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan will look to take advantage and add to his team-leading three sacks.
Through three games, Drew Brees has continued to put up big passing numbers, averaging 340 yards in the air per game. It’s been the Saints defense, though, that has carried them to an unblemished record. The worst unit in 2012 looks completely different, allowing 12.7 points per contest, good for fourth in the league. Only the Houston Texans have allowed fewer passing yards.
This isn’t the first time these two teams played each other in 2013. Miami concluded the preseason with a 24-21 victory over New Orleans. Neither starting quarterback took a snap in the game. The Saints won the last regular season meeting between the two in 2009.
New Orleans enters the contest as the healthier team. A knee injury could keep defensive end Cameron Wake off the field. Defensive tackle Paul Soliai and linebacker Koa Misi are questionable, as well.
Start Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Betting Odds: New Orleans-7, 48.5
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream Online: WatchESPN
Prediction: New Orleans 34, Miami 24