Over the past few days, I, like many Saints fans, have scanned the internet looking for reading material about my favorite team. I’ve come across a few articles, mostly by Dolphins writers, who are giving the Dolphins the edge in the passing game.
It’s almost offensive, at least to me, how Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler is given the “edge” over future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees. Seriously, Cutler, who basically went into retirement after a lackluster 11-year career with the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears?
Throughout the first three weeks of the season, Drew Brees has put up 867 yards on 111 attempts. His completion percentage is 69.61%, he has 6 touchdowns and ZERO interceptions with a 109.7 Passer Rating.
With time in the pocket, Brees will pick apart any defense and has done so for a very long time. Brees has plenty of weapons to spread the ball around to such as wide receivers Michael Thomas, Willie Snead (returning from suspension), Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon Coleman, and running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.
One can obviously argue the reason Dolphin writers give Jay Cutler the edge over Drew Brees is the reputation of the Saints defense, specifically their secondary. The issue here is that the Dolphins secondary, so far in 2017, is proving to be pretty bad as well.
I’m going to much more detailed with stats and information as they relate to the team’s offensive passing games since this is what prompted me to write this article. I am also going to cover the rushing attack and the defense but in a brief manner.
Aside from the quarterback matchup, I mean mismatch, which team really does have the edge in this Week 4 game? Let’s break down some game/matchup stats.
Passing attack for the Saints
Minnesota Vikings: (Ranked 29th vs. the pass)
This rank is a bit misleading, as the Vikings have faced Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Jameis Winston over the first 3 weeks.
Brees put up 291 Yards, 1 TD & 0 INTs. He was sacked only 1 time throughout the game and ended it with a 104.7 Passer Rating. Brees and the offensive line fared well against the Vikings defense given their talent along the defensive line and secondary. Players such as Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes.
New England Patriots: (Ranked 32nd vs. the pass)
Although the Pats defense has been crushed on a weekly basis, they had two tough matchups in the first two weeks vs. the Chiefs (T. Hill & K. Hunt) and Saints.
Brees put up 356 Yards, 2 TDs & 0 INTs. He was again only sacked 1 time and ended the game with a 99.9 Passer Rating (his worst mark through the first 3 games). The Patriots are currently hurting without starting MLB Dont’a Hightower, who was ruled out vs. the Saints.
Carolina Panthers: (Ranked 3rd vs. the pass)
The Panthers are ranked 3rd in the NFL vs. the pass but in Weeks 1 & 2 they played against QB-Brian Hoyer (49ers) and Josh McCown (Jets).
Brees didn’t light it up against the Panthers, but he didn’t have to. He was extremely efficient and the Saints also pounded the rock with Ingram, Peterson and Kamara. Brees put up 220 Yards, 3 TDs & 0 INTs. He was sacked only once (by a dangerous Carolina front 7) and posted a 131.4 Passer Rating.
Miami Dolphins (October 1st): (Ranked 8th vs. the pass)
The Dolphins may be ranked 8th overall vs the pass but that’s because they have only played two games so far. Adjust the rank setting to Yards-Per-Game and they rank 28th. They also just gave up 249 Yards, 1 TD & 0 INTs to career backup QB Josh McCown of the Jets.
Stat prediction for Brees: 275 Yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, QBR 110+
The Dolphins passing attack
Los Angeles Chargers: (Ranked 5th vs. the pass)
The Chargers have not yet faced an elite quarterback in 2017. Their first match up was with the Broncos and former 7th Round pick Trevor Siemian (219 yds, 2TDs & 1 INT) and then Week 3 against Alex Smith (155 yds, 2 TDs & 0 INTs).
Cutler: 230 yds (24/33), 1 TD, 0 INTs
Cutler was sacked twice, and during the first portion of the 2017 NFL season head coach Adam Gase has been clearly displeased with the poor performance of their offensive line. He recently referred called them “garbage” in the New York Jets post game press conference.
New York Jets: (Ranked 14th vs. the pass)
The Jets secondary, and defense as a whole, has been highly criticized throughout the early part of the 2017 season. They lost in Week 1 to the Buffalo Bills and were ripped apart by the Oakland Raiders in Week 2. Then in Week 3, they bounced back to crush the Miami Dolphins in a lopsided 20-6 victory.
Cutler: 220 yds (26/44), 1 TD, 1 INT
Cutler was sacked 3 times against the Jets, who during the offseason, traded away one of their best defensive linemen in DT-Sheldon Richardson.
New Orleans Saints: (Ranked 31st vs. the pass)
Not to make excuses for the Saints defense, but their secondary was/is again dealing with injuries to its starting cornerbacks. After abysmal performances against the Vikings and Patriots, they rebounded huge against the Panthers. They sacked Cam Newton four times and held him to 167 YDS, 0 TDs, 3 INTs and a QBR of 43.8
Stat prediction for Cutler: 210 YDS, 1 TD
Offensive passing edge: New Orleans Saints
Saints Rushing Attack
During the 2016 NFL season, Mark Ingram became the first Saints running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since Deuce McAllister in 2006. To begin the season, the Saints’ supposed and improved running game looked like a failed experiment. But in Week 3, head coach Sean Payton seemed to find the magic formula for Ingram, Peterson, and Kamara.
The Saints offensive line clearly helped, and was a pleasant surprise after their two starting tackles (Terron Armstead and Zach Strief) were out due to injury. Ingram had 14 carries for 56 yards (4 yards/carry), Peterson had 9 carries for 33 yards (3.6 yards/carry) and Kamara had 2 carries for 37 yards (18.5 yards/carry). As a team, they averaged 5 yards/carry (149 total rush yards) against one of the NFL’s best defenses. The Carolina Panthers, in Week 1, held the Bills (LeSean McCoy) to 51 rushing yards and in Week 2 held the 49ers (Carlos Hyde) to just 69 rushing yards.
Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi is talented. He put up some monster games in 2016, rushing for over 200 yards in three different games. He is one of the clear cut workhorse running backs in the NFL.
The issue for Ajayi is one of the same issues Jay Cutler is currently facing, the Dolphins offensive line. Head coach Adam Gase, as stated earlier, has been extremely critical of the unit, and while he will clearly look to make improvements ahead of Sunday’s London gam, as of now they still look like “garbage”.
The Saints have made improvements to their front seven, and while still not an elite unit, they should be able to contain Ajayi. With Drew Brees potentially running up the score against a poor Dolphins secondary Ajayi could also be limited as Cutler may be forced to air it out.
Offensive Rushing Edge: New Orleans Saints
Defense (Both teams)
While neither the Dolphins or Saints defensive units have been impressive and both need work, the Saints in Week 3 look like they may have fixed some of their issues. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have not yet demonstrated success on the defensive side during the 2017 season.
If the combination of Drew Brees stacking up points, the Saints improved pass rush, and the Dolphins poor offensive line can lead to the Saints shutting down the Dolphins run game, then maybe this Saints secondary can have a field day with the Jay Cutler of old.
Defensive Edge: New Orleans Saints
Saints defensive prediction: 4 Sacks, 2 INTs