Monday night football in the Superdome with two 3-0 teams battling to keep their record perfect. What more could you ask for as a fan? The Saints will host the Dolphins tonight for a chance to start the first quarter of the season with a perfect record. This is, like the first three games, one that the Saints will come in as favorites in. Here's five things I'll be looking for as the game progresses:
1. Does Jahri Evans start, and if so, does he play well?
Evans is still dealing with a hamstring issue and it's affected his play pretty negatively when he's been in this year. Last week Tim Lelito started in his place and was largely a disaster at right guard. Lelito is now banged up too (calf) and with Evans returning to practice all week I think it's fair to assume he'll start. But is he being rushed back due to Lelito's performance and injury, or he is actually ready? If this offensive line is going to perform better it needs its best player playing like the All Pro that he is.
2. How do the Saints treat Mike Wallace?
Wallace is the prized pick up of the Dolphins' offseason. His top end speed is a threat to any defensive backfield in the game. So far he's been very quiet this season because teams have elected to double team him using safety help over the top to take away the big play. As a result, Ryan Tannehill has been content to nickel and dime teams down the field with some success. Will the Saints force the Dolphins to stay honest, or will they risk the big play to Wallace by playing them straight up?
3. Can either team run the ball?
The Saints are 24th in rushing and the Dolphins are 28th coming into this game. The Saints are averaging just 3.5 yards a carry, and the Dolphins are even worse at 3.2 per pop. Both have been miserable getting anything going on the ground. The Dolphins are also 18th against the run, and the Saints are 20th. The Saints are also 31st giving up 5.3 yards per carry and the Dolphins aren't much better (26th) at 4.7. So neither team can stop the run that well, and neither team can really run the football so far this year. What gives? The stats contradict themselves a bit in this one, but I'm still confident the Saints should be able to shut down the Dolphins' run game. Their run defense has been much better than the stats suggest. The Dolphins run game, however, is every bit as bad as the stats suggest. Will this be Khiry Robinson's coming out party? If either team is able to establish the run it will go a long way towards helping them win this game.
4. Do the Saints hold their fourth straight opponent under 20 points?
The Saints' defense has a nice little streak going and at this point we might as well keep counting until it stops. No one has been able to score 20 points on this defense yet, and the last two teams have only produced one offensive touchdown. I have a hard time seeing the Dolphins came out of this alive if they can't score 20.
5. Who steps up with Lance Moore out?
Darren Sproles, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham are consistently performing for the offense. But we've yet to see a fourth guy really step up and make this offense more complete. I don't care if it's the running game with Pierre Thomas or Khiry Robinson, or if it's an auxiliary player in the passing game (Ben Watson, Robert Meachem or Nick Toon?) but I really want to see someone outside of the big three make a big play for this offense. The Saints' lone rushing touchdown is from Brees and 83% of their receiving scores have been Graham/Colston (Meachem is the only one that's scored besides the big three). Some variety which will showcase balance and not make the Saints look so reliant on three playmakers. Who will it be?