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Week 4: Saints-Dolphins matchup analysis

The SportsXchange

Miami Dolphins (3-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-0)

Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans - TV: ESPN

*TV announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Suzy Kolber

*Keys to the game: The NFL is about matchups, and this one features interesting contrasts across the board. The Saints have not protected QB Drew Brees well, but the Dolphins' strong pass rush might be without DE Cam Wake, who left last week's game with a knee injury. New Orleans wants to run the ball more effectively to aid that pass protection, and Miami is allowing 4.7 yards per carry. On the flip side, the Dolphins are 3-0 despite being outgained every week. New Orleans' defense has shown vast improvement over 2012's debacle of allowing an NFL-record 7,042 yards, and the Saints are 42-2 under coach Sean Payton when allowing fewer than 20 points. Miami doesn't need QB Ryan Tannehill forcing the ball into the teeth of Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme, meaning the Dolphins (3.2 yards per carry) need more consistent production out of RBs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.

*Matchup to watch - Dolphins CBs Brent Grimes and Will Davis vs. Saints wide receivers: Payton said the Saints are seeing more man coverage this season, which cuts down on the ability of defenses to create turnovers but also creates an additional half-count the protection must hold up for while receivers get open. Grimes has been excellent this season, while Davis is likely to start his third game in place of injured Dimitri Patterson.

*Player spotlight - Dolphins DE Dion Jordan: The rookie played 50 snaps last week as his playing time quickly increases. Miami needs him to be a pass-rushing presence if Wake is out.

*Fast facts: The Saints are on pace to allow 53 sacks, more than double the most since Brees signed with the team in 2006 (26 in 2010, '12). ... New Orleans has an eight-game winning streak on Monday nights. ... Dolphins WR Mike Wallace has 12 receptions, two fewer than TE Charles Clay.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

This serves as a litmus test for the Dolphins' resurgence, and the Saints are by no means invincible. But Miami could be without up to four defensive starters, and QB Ryan Tannehill faces a daunting task in the Superdome on primetime. Bourbon Street will be rockin'.

*Our pick: Saints 27-20
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