A disheartening loss to the New York Jets last Sunday has led to numerous things, but one of the most glaring revelations are the number of people that are humbled each week in their ability to predict the outcome of games in the National Football League.
Most analysts, beat writers, odds makers and fans all predicted the Miami Dolphins to defeat the Jets, but instead, the team failed to even change their number in the score column until there was no time remaining on the clock in the fourth quarter.
Things won’t be any easier this week for the Dolphins as the team travels to London to play the New Orleans Saints who are fresh off a 34-13 victory against the Carolina Panthers. Also keep in mind the fact that the Panthers allowed a total of six points in their first two games prior to last week’s game against New Orleans.
The overseas matchup between the Saints and Dolphins will likely be a test for both squads due to the amount of travel and change in weekly routine, but here are five players that will play a large role in determining which team earns its second win of the season.
Put simply, Tunsil has struggled at left tackle so far this season and he draws a less-than-favorable matchup against Cameron Jordan of the Saints this Sunday.
It’s fair to question whether or not starting him at guard instead of tackle last season stunted his growth, but we’ll all be looking for Tunsil to make Cutler and future Dolphins’ quarterbacks not have to worry about their blindside like the team has in the past with the likes of Jake Long and Branden Albert.
It would also be nice to not have to rely on a running back or tight end to help provide double teams with Tunsil – as we saw quite often last week against the Jets – since these players would be better served as receiving options or assisting an offensive lineman who wasn’t touted as the one of the best left tackle prospects in recent history.
Needless to say, it will be very critical to put pressure on Drew Brees to force him into early throws and put him into situations where turnovers are more likely.
Wake took down Jets’ quarterback Josh McCown on the first series of last week’s game to notch his first sack of the season, but there wasn’t much to get excited about in regards to pass rush as the game progressed.
Wake and the rest of the Dolphins’ defensive line don’t necessarily need to rack up a bunch of sacks on Sunday, but applying consistent pressure throughout the game and not letting Brees get into a grove will be key in whether or not Miami escapes with this win.
This selection could just as easily be Xavien Howard too, but whoever spends the majority of their time trying to contain Saints’ wide receiver, Michael Thomas, is going to have his hands full.
Thomas hauled in seven of eight targets for 87 yards and a touchdown last week against the Panthers; and Brees isn’t shy about targeting the second-year receiver from Ohio State, receiving at least eight targets each of the first three weeks.
The Dolphins’ secondary cannot get beat deep again this week – as Alterraun Verner was last week against Jets’ receiver, Robbie Anderson – since the Dolphins don’t yet have the look of a team who can afford to allow too many quick points and face the potential of becoming one dimensional on offense.
Maxwell may have the opportunity to play up to his contract this week as he’s sure to be tested by the Saints’ passing attack given the fact their run game has been non existent.
As noted, Bress has the unique ability to put up huge yardage totals and touchdowns regardless the quality of defense he’s playing. Since Miami’s pass defense is currently inconsistent at best, this could turn into a long day for the Dolphins’ secondary.
Although the Saints have yet to show much of a running game, Brees can simply wear down Miami’s defense if given too much time to operate and also if Miami’s offense is unable to sustain drives, leaving the defense to be on the field too often against a quarterback of Brees’ caliber.
With Miami’s impressive first two weeks against opposing team’s run game, the outcome of this matchup will likely be in Brees’ hands and we’ll need to see a better defensive performance out of the Dolphins than we did last week against the Jets if the team has any chance of escaping London with a win.
Fresh off his first interception of the season last week against Carolina, Vaccaro is the leader of the Saints’ young secondary that is sure to be tested this Sunday.
Even though the Dolphins weren’t able to get any offense going until the last meaningless drive of the game against the Jets, Dolphins’ head coach Adam Gase is expected to bring out a few new wrinkles this week to see if the offense can generate more points early in games.
With the playmakers Miami’s offense features both at wide receiver and running back, Vaccaro is sure to be in the mix quite often against the Dolphins. When you consider how much the Saints defense has struggled so far in 2017 – allowing a 31st-worst 437.7 yards per game – Vaccaro and his experience will be leaned on heavily to help make this defense respectable as the season continues.