By Kelly Reed
Miami Dolphins vs New Orleans Saints
Monday – December 27 – 7:15 p.m.
Caesars Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Records Before the Game
Miami Dolphins (7-7, 2-4 Away)
New Orleans Saints (7-7, 2-4 Home)
It’s make or break time for these two teams. The Saints are fighting to secure the last NFC playoff spot and the Dolphins are on the outside looking in needing to catch a few lucky breaks for a playoff run. After this Monday Night Football game only two weeks of regular season football remains. The loser of this match up for all intents and purposes will be out of the playoff hunt. Let’s take a look at the teams and how they match up.
It seems as if the Miami Dolphins have experienced a tale of two seasons. After the season opener win over the Patriots, the team lost seven straight and then rattled off six wins in a row. The Dolphins are on a hot streak with wins over several mediocre teams (Giants, Jets, Panthers, Texans). Will momentum keep this team rolling?
The Dolphins are led by QB Tua Tagovailoa who has the arm and legs to beat most defenses. It’s his decision making skills that most critics will question. He can keep plays alive and shuffle around the pocket to buy time and find his receivers downfield. His current QBR of 55.9 reflects that when pressure is applied, accuracy goes out the window resulting in errant throws and interceptions. Tua does have 14 TDs on the season so it isn’t like he’s a total bust as the man under center. He has lost one of his key weapons for the season with WR Will Fuller (broken fingers) which means WR DeVante Parker and TE Mike Gesicki will have to step up and haul in his passes. RB Myles Gaskin is serviceable as the featured back with 580 yards and three touchdowns because the Dolphins have no one else to turn to (don’t let Duke Johnson’s performance last week fool you). Gaskins will be targeted a few times by Tua with screens and routes out of the backfield. That being said, the Saints defense is no joke. They will bring the heat and the noise level of the Superdome will be in full effect.
New Orleans Saints
The ugly monster that is COVID-19 has reared it’s head and as of last Thursday witnessed the Saints listing nine players on the reserve/COVID-19 docket. Significant names include quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian which negatively impacts the offense. It looks like the Saints will be on to their fourth quarterback of the season when Ian Book takes the field Monday night. Book hails from Notre Dame (led them to the college football playoff twice) and was drafted in the 4th Round of the 2021 Draft. The good news is that the Dolphins and the rest of the NFL have little film to prepare their schemes. The bad news is that he hasn’t taken a regular season snap. His preseason game appearance ended up with him going 9-for-16 for 126 yards and no touchdowns along with an interception. How will Book perform in a regular season “must win” game? I see fewer passes being thrown. The few that are needed, have to be hauled in by WRs Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Marquez Callaway. RB Alvin Kamara is a game changer himself and he might be on the receiving end of a few of those passes. When the ball has to be moved in short yardage expect the Saints to hand the ball off to Mark Ingram II. The Dolphins will blitz often in this game and might just go man-to-man on defense daring Ian Book to beat them with his arm.
Will Ian Book do enough to keep the Saints in the game? How much noise will the Who Dats bring for home field advantage? Will the Dolphins find their run game against a stingy Saints defense? So many questions will be answered on Monday Night Football! ESPN has the Saints winning at home by 62.6% and the over/under at 37.0 points. I think this game ultimately comes down to the leg of Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders in a close one.
Dolphins – 16
Saints – 13