Here is a look of how Monday night's nationally televised game between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints should breakdown.
When Dolphins run
The Dolphins are slowly getting the rushing attack in gear, progressively boosting the team's yards per carry average from 1.9 yards per carry in Week 1 to 3.2 yard per carry entering Game 4. Lamar Miller broke a 49-yard run last week against the Falcons, flashing the big play potential he possessed at the University of Miami. Miller averages 4.0 yards per carry. The Dolphins' offensive line needs to do a better job opening up lanes against the Saints 3-4 front, which is allowing 5.3 yards per carry. New Orleans' linebackers are also nursing some troublesome injuries.
When Saints run
The Saints have a three back system, which forces Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram to share the workload. Thomas has only gained 100 yards on 25 carries so far, but he's New Orleans most consistent runner. Sproles is the type of scatback that traditionally gives Miami's linebackers problems on third down. The Dolphins defense is tied with the Colts for the sixth worst yards per carry average (4.7 yards) allowed in the NFL. Getting nose tackle Paul Soliai back from his knee injury could provide a much needed assist to the defensive front.
When Dolphins pass
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has improves his accuracy, he's reading the field better, and he's getting all his weapons involved. So far Tannehill has a 94.3 passer rating, which has him ranked as a top 10 quarterback ending Week 4. Mike Wallace is making his New Orleans homecoming, so expect Miami's deep threat to get more opportunities. The Saints will be without safety Roman Harper, who is sidelined by a knee injury. Harper's absence will put rookie Kenny Vaccaro into a starting role, and force the Saints to find a new nickel cornerback. Tannehill was sacked five times against Atlanta and has been sacked 14 times in three games. The Saints have eight sacks on the season.
When Saints pass
Drew Brees, who has a 91.4 quarterback rating heading into Monday's game, is completing 63.8 percent of his passes, and his offense is converting 45 percent of third downs. Brees' main target is tight end Jimmy Graham, who lines up out wide like a receiver and has abused linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties, scoring four touchdowns in three games. The Dolphins must find a way to bracket Graham in, and make Brees uncomfortable in the pocket. That might be hard to do if Pro Bowl pass rusher Cameron Wake is sidelined, or limited by the knee injury he suffered last week.
Both Marcus Thigpen and Darren Sproles haven't gotten their return games greased up yet, but they are two quick, elusive returners who can change their team's field position at any point. Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis has been perfect (6-fot-6) on field goal opportunities, and that includes two in the 50-yard range. Sturgis' kickoffs are usually touchbacks. Saints kicker Garrett Hartley has connected on 7-of-8 field goals, but he hasn't attempted anything in the 50-yard range yet.
Despite being 3-0, the Dolphins have been outgained 1,116 yards to 958.... The Dolphins' 12 penalties are tied for fourth-fewest in the NFL.... Brees has thrown for at least 300 yards in eight straight games.... The 184.3 passing yards per game the Saints allow is fifth best in the NFL.... Brees has won his last eight starts on Monday Night Football....The Saints have a 31-11 record at home since 2008, which is fourth best in the NFL.
Prediction: Saints 28, Dolphins 21
Time and TV: 8:25 p.m. on WSFL, ESPN