'Monday Night Football': Five things to watch
- By Marc Sessler
- Around the League Writer
- Published: Sept. 30, 2013 at 03:33 p.m.
- Updated: Sept. 30, 2013 at 07:22 p.m.
Quality primetime games have been hard to come by this season, but there's plenty to like about tonight's "Monday Night Football" showdown between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints.
Both teams come into the game unbeaten and untied, the result of outstanding quarterback play and a pair of surprising defenses.
The matchup provides a look at two coaches at different stages of their careers. For the Saints, Sean Payton is back from his season-long suspension and angling to pull New Orleans back into the playoffs after a nightmarish 2012.
For Miami, Joe Philbin oversees a roster loaded with talent after general manager Jeff Ireland spent millions in the offseason to turn the Dolphins into a winner. So far, so good.
Here's what to watch Monday night:
1. Gregg Rosenthal has been driving the Ryan Tannehill bandwagon since last season. It'll be a crowded ride if Miami's young quarterback pulls off a victory tonight. Tannehill -- our top "Making the Leap" candidate -- is building chemistry with newly added receiver Mike Wallace, while Brian Hartline has just one drop on the year. Against the Saints, the key to Miami's air game begins up front, where an average offensive line faces its biggest test yet.
2. Under Rob Ryan, New Orleans is a new creation on defense. Doom was predicted after defensive end Kenyon Coleman and outside 'backers Victor Butler and Will Smith were lost for the year. Instead of crumbling, this unit has surged behind Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan, with the latter emerging as the league's finest 3-4 defensive end outside of J.J. Watt. Jordan's dominant play in the middle has drawn opposing linemen toward the center of the defense, leaving Galette alone to wreak havoc from the edge.
3. One more note on the Saints' defense: Ryan long has been linked to the 3-4, but the injuries have New Orleans playing less base D in favor of a 4-2-5 scheme that keeps its best players on the field. "Three-four, 4-3, they all add up to seven I think," Ryan said. Bad Santa = math wizard.
4. Jimmy Graham is the best tight end in football, giving Drew Brees the type of production Miami hoped to see from Dustin Keller before he shattered his knee. In Keller's place, Charles Clay has filled in admirably. The fullback/tight end-hybrid torched the Colts with five catches for 109 yards in Week 2. He's averaging 14.5 yards per reception and he's been targeted 19 times this season, just two fewer than Wallace, who's seen endless double teams.
5. Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake is officially inactive, the team announced. The Dolphins first-round pick Dion Jordan will see an increased role in Wake's absence.