MNF Preview: Fins in New Orleans to take on Covid ravaged Saints

Brian Flores’ 7-7 Miami Dolphins, winners of six straight are in New Orleans on Sunday night to take on Sean Payton’s 7-7 Saints at the Caesars Superdome. Both sides are coming off victories over a division opponent.

Miami beat the Jets for the eighth time in ten games, whilst the Saints swept the Bucs in season for the third time in a row, pulling a 9-0 shutout victory out the bag without head coach Sean Payton (positive covid test.) This week one team is in a great spot, the other the opposite. Let’s take a look at tonight’s MNF game. 

Saints have got a real covid problem, Dolphins getting healthier

21 New Orleans Saints players were added to the reserve/covid-19 list during the week ahead of their Monday night matchup at home to the Dolphins. Some of the big names added to that list include QB’s Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian, DB Malcom Jenkins, LB Demario Davis, and OT Ryan Ramczyck. That means the likes of Ian Book, Zach Baun, James Hurst, and PJ Williams will have to step up.

The first of those names Ian Book will start for the very first time as an NFL player. The rookie QB out of Notre Dame was drafted by New Orleans in the 4th round this year. He was the only QB on the active roster until the team signed Blake Bortles on Friday, to act as his backup. Book will become the 4th different player to start at quarterback for the Saints this season.

Miami on the other hand gets standout rookies Jevon Holland and Jaylen Waddle back from the list this week, both were deeply missed last Sunday. The Dolphins have 0 names on the injury report, so the entire active roster is healthy. They do however have a few names still on the covid list. The most notable of those are Albert Wilson, Justin Coleman, and Duke Riley who have played a small part over the season.

Tua is good?

Tua Tagovailoa has been one of the most talked-about players in the entire league since coming into it in 2020. From the hip injury going into the draft, to the benchings, Deshaun Watson rumours, and inability to stay healthy in the league. Tua’s finally had a lengthy period of time as a starting QB without interruption and we’re finally seeing what he’s meant to be. 

There are obvious limitations, the main one being the arm. When looking at PFF’s big-time throw percentage, the second-year QB only places 28th of 31 eligible signal-callers. That sometimes hampers him under pressure too, resulting in the 6th worst turnover worthy play percentage. Beyond those numbers, Tua certainly has his fair share of pros. Those being his incredible accuracy (league-leading 69.9% completion percentage) and pocket presence. The Hawaii native boasts the best pressure to sack percentage among QBs with 50% of their teams dropbacks (12.0%) That second number is remarkable when taking into account how historically bad the wall in front of him is. 

Tagovailoa also has the clutch gene, he’s always had it, most notably in the 2018 National Championship game. That’s carried over brilliantly to the league. He has a 106.0 passer rating in the 4th quarter, ranking 7th of QBs with over 50 dropbacks. In fact, Tua gets better as the game goes on, he ranks 22nd and 23rd in passer rating in the 1st and 2nd quarters, and 12th and 7th after the half. I think he’s done enough to continue as the Dolphins starter, those numbers are a major factor in that decision. He’s going to be a top 20 quarterback for sure, but maybe not at the elite level that Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow will be competing at. 

Two elite defenses

If you’re someone who likes watching great defensive football, this game is for you. Two of the hottest groups down the stretch will face off against two below-average offenses. It’s going to be a slog people, but a good one with plenty of superstars on show.

Dennis Allen’s Saints defense shut out Tom Brady’s Buccaneers for only the 3rd time in his career, and the first since 2006. Overall they’re the league’s 2nd ranked defense according to PFF, with some standout players.

Marcus Davenport is really coming into his own this year, he’s PFF’s 3rd highest-graded edge player (89.7 grade) and when paired with Cam Jordan creates a pass rush that is hard to stop. Their secondary is playing very well, look what they did to the Bucs weapons last week. Pete Werner and Marcus Williams are also playing at a high level, both rank in the top 5 of their position.

Miami only has the 22nd ranked defense, but a lot of that will be down to the terrible start to the season. Through the first 8 games of the year, the Fins had allowed 29.1 points per game and 406.8 yards per game. Compare that to their past 5 and you’ll think they’re a different team. It’s gone down to 11 points per game, and 280.8 yards per game, what a huge jump!

Xavien Howard has had another great season, making his 3rd pro bowl in 4 years, whilst Zach Sieler and Christian Wilkins are PFF’s 6th and 7th highest graded interior defensive linemen. Jevon Holland is the guy to look out for though, he’d be talked about a lot more if Micah Parsons wasn’t around. He’s already the 5th highest graded safety as a rookie and is a key part in Brian Flores and Josh Boyer’s defense.

Prediction

Miami should get it done tonight, especially with the covid issues that New Orleans has. I think it’ll be closer than a lot of people imagine it might be. I believe this is the biggest game in Tua’s career, win and the Dolphins become the #7 seed and control their destiny in the playoffs. 

That’s remarkable considering they were 1-7. If he has a similar game to the crucial Buffalo and Las Vegas games down the stretch last year that could ruin their season, so the pressure will be on. I’m taking Miami but only by a few.

Miami 17, New Orleans 15

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