Dolphins vs. Saints 2013 game preview: A surprising battle of undefeated teams on Monday night

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Not a lot of people expected Miami to go into New Orleans with a perfect record intact by Week 4, and perhaps just as many expected the Saints to be defending their own 3-0 start. But that's what we will be seeing on Monday night, in one of the best games of the week.

When people saw "Dolphins at Saints, Week 4" on the schedule for Monday Night Football before the season, I'm sure many of them were concerned that it would be a dud. New Orleans fell to 7-9 last year in the wake of the bounty scandal, while Miami posted the same record with the 27th-ranked offense in the NFL.

It didn't seem like there would be a lot to be excited about, but it looks like ESPN may have found the game of the week as both teams go in undefeated.

Finding out which team continues its hot start to the season and moves to 4-0 will be one of the big questions all weekend. Can the Saints solidify their lead in the NFC South or will the Dolphins keep pace with the New England Patriots in the AFC East? Here's a closer look at both teams.

Meet the Saints

The Saints are 3-0 thanks to wins over the Falcons, Buccaneers and Cardinals. Their 2-0 record in the division should make them especially comfortable, considering no other team in the NFC South has a divisional win yet. New Orleans is surprisingly being carried by its fifth-ranked scoring defense, though Drew Brees and company are still doing their fair share.

Brees is on pace for 32 touchdown passes and over 5,000 yards again, while tight end Jimmy Graham could break all of the records for his position. Graham currently has 23 catches for 358 yards, third-most in the NFL. New Orleans' perfect record is surprising, but not nearly as surprising as the Dolphins'.

Meet the Dolphins

Miami is 3-0 after wins over the Browns, Colts and Falcons, despite being 26th in total offense and 22nd in total defense. The key for the Dolphins seems to be efficiency, timeliness and the improvement of quarterback Ryan Tannehill under second-year head coach Joe Philbin. Miami had come-from-behind wins over the Colts and Falcons, with Tannehill playing exceedingly well when necessary in both games.

He was 3-of-3 for 65 yards on what would be the game-winning drive in Indianapolis -- the Dolphins trailed, 20-17, before getting the 24-20 win -- and he was 8-of-11 for 68 yards on the game-winning drive against the Falcons as Miami won, 27-23. The Dolphins have been playing with fire the last two weeks, but all that matters is getting the win.

And they've been perfect at that so far this season.

Local Takes: New Orleans Saints

Jon Oliver at Canal Street Chronicles broke down some of the numbers for the Saints in their 31-7 win over the Cardinals, making them a top-five team in passing offense and scoring defense:

Opposing teams have had thirteen third downs in each of the first three games against New Orleans; and the five-of-thirteen (38%) third down conversion rate the Saints allowed the Cardinals matches exactly what they allowed the Buccaneers a week prior. After the first Arizona drive, the Saints only allowed nine first downs and 172 total yards (117 pass, 55 rush) over the course of the other ten drives by the Cardinals.

Local Takes: Miami Dolphins

Sean Donovan at The Phinsider explains why the game ball must go to Ryan Tannehill after their exciting win over the Falcons in Week 3:

Tannehill completed 9-of-12 passes for 69 yards on the drive, with six different Dolphins receivers catching passes. Remarkably, neither of Miami's leading wide receivers Mike Wallace or Brian Hartline were so much as targeted on the possession. Little-used role players Sims, Rishard Matthews and Michael Egnew make key receptions to help lead the Dolphins to victory.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Canal Street Chronicles and The Phinsider, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@SaintsCSC

@thephinsider

Prediction

Many analysts seem split on this one because both teams have good things going for them. The Dolphins seem like they have "magic" on their side and playing on the road hasn't been an issue thus far after winning in Cleveland and Indy. Philbin has his Dolphins playing over their heads and they won't have any fears of the Saints or traveling to New Orleans.

They probably should.

The Saints have had one of the best home-field advantages in the league in recent years, going 8-0 in the dome in 2011 and remaining a respectable 4-4 last year when they were anything but respectable overall. Now that Sean Payton is back and has New Orleans back to respectability, the Saints should stay undefeated. It won't be easy, though.

Saints 31, Dolphins 27

Odds

The line opened with the Saints as 5.5-point favorites but has moved to New Orleans -7, according to OddsShark.com.

Next Week

The Saints travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in what could be a matchup of 4-0 teams, while the Dolphins welcome the defending champion Baltimore Ravens to Miami.

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