Monday Night Football Picks: Dolphins at Saints Week 4 Odds
by Alan Matthews - 9/26/2013
I want you to imagine a quarterback who has a Pro Bowl-type season and leads his team to the AFC East title, playing the best of all signal-callers in that division. Of course, I am talking about ... Miami's Ryan Tannehill? OK, let's not put the cart before the horse yet, but Tannehill's Dolphins are with the Chiefs as the biggest early-season surprise in football at 3-0 and tied atop the East with New England. And don't look now, but Tannehill has been much better than the Patriots' Tom Brady.
We should find out if the Dolphins are legitimate contenders to the Patriots' annual AFC East crown on Monday night when Miami visits New Orleans. The Saints are one of the other 3-0 teams, meaning perhaps Saints-Dolphins will be a Super Bowl preview! (That would likely be very ugly between a dome team and warm-weather club in the frozen tundra of MetLife Stadium). More than 75 percent of all teams that have started 3-0 in the past 23 years have gone on to play in the postseason. The last time seven teams started 3-0 was in 2009 when the Saints won their only Super Bowl ... in Miami. Two 3-0 teams that year missed the playoffs entirely, the Giants and Broncos (both finished 8-8). Arizona started last year 3-0 and finished 5-11. Houston and Atlanta also did and won their divisions.
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Miami is -115 to make the playoffs at Sportsbook.ag, with New Orleans at -500.
Dolphins at Saints Betting Story Lines
Tannehill likely will never be as good as the two rookie QBs chosen ahead of him last year in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III or as good as third-rounder Russell Wilson. But it does appear Miami has its answer at quarterback for the first time in years. Just think if the Dolphins had chosen to sign free agent Drew Brees over Daunte Culpepper before the 2006 season, Nick Saban might still be in south Florida instead of becoming possibly the greatest college football coach ever at Alabama. Tannehill led a late game-winning drive against the Falcons last week, completing 9-of-12 on the drive that culminated in a one-yard TD pass.
The week before that, Tannehill outplayed Luck as the Dolphins pulled an upset in Indianapolis. Tannehill, chosen No. 8 overall out of Texas A&M to open a spot for some guy named “Johnny Football,” has improved across the board from last year, including completion percentage (58.3 to 66.4), yards per game (205.9 to 275.7) and QB rating (76.1 to 94.3). If there's one negative, it's that he has been sacked a whopping 14 times, tops in the NFL, behind a young offensive line. Tannehill may have no choice but to carry the offense, because the running game is lousy, ranking No. 28 at 70.3 yards per game. I don't fault the Fins for letting Reggie Bush go, as he's hurt already, but Lamar Miller doesn't appear to be a featured back. Again, though, the O-Line isn't helping a lot. I'm not ready to call big-money receiver addition Mike Wallace a bust yet, but other than against the Colts, he has been totally invisible.
Sean Payton isn't the favorite for the NFL Coach of the Year right now, but it's clear what a difference he makes after the Saints dropped to 7-9 without him. That said, Payton isn't even the coach of the year on his own staff. That would be new coordinator Rob Ryan, who has transformed the NFL's worst defense (record 7,042 yards in 2012) into one that is allowing only 295.7 yards and 12.7 points per game. I'm not sold quite yet on that group. Yes, it looked good in Week 1 against a strong Falcons offense, but shutting down Tampa Bay and Arizona doesn't mean much.
Brees has been his typical terrific self, and with 300 yards passing in this one will tie his own NFL record with a ninth straight 300-yard game. Miami is allowing 263 per game and no doubt will focus on stopping Jimmy Graham, who has 23 catches for 358 yards and four touchdowns. He has 313 receiving yards in his past two games, the most by a tight end in a two-game span in a single season since 1996. The Saints aren't much better running the ball than Miami, averaging only 85.7 yards per game. Former Heisman winner Mark Ingram is officially a complete bust. He has carried 17 times for 31 yards on the season. He sat out last week and might look for a trade. Who would want him?
Dolphins at Saints Monday Night Football Week 4 Betting Odds and Trends
At Sportsbook.ag, the Saints are 6.5-point favorites with a total of 48. Miami is 3-0 ATS (2-0 on road) and 2-1 “over/under” (1-1 on road). New Orleans is 2-1 ATS (2-0 at home) and 0-3 O/U (0-2 at home). Miami is 5-1 ATS in its past six following a win. The Dolphins are 12-4 ATS in their past 16 against teams with a winning record. Miami is 1-4 ATS in its past five Monday games. The Saints are 4-0 ATS in their past four Monday games. They are 6-2 ATS in their past eight following a win of at least 14 points. The over is 5-1 in Miami's past six September games. The over is 8-1 in New Orleans' past nine against teams with a winning record.
Monday Night Football Picks Week 4: Dolphins at Saints Betting Predictions
The teams haven't played since 2009. Miami is looking to start 4-0 for the first time since 1995, but I don't see that happening without a Brees injury, and he's never injured because he gets rid of the ball so quickly. The Saints dominated at home in 2011 when Payton was on the sideline, covering every game. They appear set to do the same this year. Take New Orleans, and hurry before the line moves to 7 (it has at some books) and the over.
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