The New Orleans Saints are now only 5 days away from their game against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in London, England as part of the NFL's annual overseas International Series.
The (1-2) Saints enter this contest coming off of an impressive 34-13 road win in Charlotte, North Carolina over their NFC South division rivals, the Carolina Panthers; while the (1-1) Dolphins are coming off of a terrible 20-6 loss at the New York Jets on the road that prompted Dolphins coach Adam Gase to label his team's performance as "garbage" on Monday.
The last time that these two teams met was in 2013; a game won by the Saints at home in the Mercedees-Benz Superdome by a score of 38-17.
It's with that in mind this morning, that the Saints News Network presents 5 "bold" predictions for this Sunday Morning's contest as New Orleans attempts to even its season record at (2-2) against the Dolphins; and enter into the Bye Week next week with some momentum for the remainder of the season.
And we'll start first at #5, and work our way down to #1......
#5. FINALLY -- ADRIAN PETERSON SCORES HIS FIRST TOUCHDOWN AS A MEMBER OF THE SAINTS
It's been a less than stellar first season thus far through the first 3 games for Peterson, who despite his desire to still play as a "lead" back as he had for the first 10 seasons with Minnesota, has now been forced to endure a "time share" role at RB for the Saints with fellow backs Mark Ingram and rookie sensation Alvin Kamara.
Peterson has rushed for 77 total yards on 23 carries in the 3 games thus far; and gained 33 yards on 9 carries in last Sunday's win at the Panthers. He also had two catches on two targets for four yards. Peterson was actually given his first crack at the goal line vs. the Panthers, but was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage -- leading to a Michael Thomas 5 yard TD reception on the very next play.
Still, the running back snaps have gone heavily in Ingram's favor, as the presumed #1 RB in the Saints offense played in 29 of the Saints' 58 offensive snaps (50 percent), in comparison to just 14 snaps (24 percent) for Peterson. Nevertheless, Peterson still remains vitally important for New Orleans, who certainly could use him a whole lot more should anything happen injury-wise to Ingram.
In this contest Sunday Morning however, the Saints will finally reward Peterson's patience --- as the former League MVP will rush for a season high 52 yards on 8 carries (an impressive 6.1 yard per carry average) and yes: his first career TD as a member of the Saints with a 1 yard TD run in the 1st Quarter.
#4. THE SAINTS DEFENSE PICKS UP WHERE THEY LEFT OFF AGAINST CAROLINA --- AND MAKE DOLPHINS QB JAY CUTLER'S LIFE A "LIVING HELL" FOR 3 HOURS
It's not exactly the greatest secret in the world that the Saints have had some success over Dolphins QB Jay Cutler over the years, dating back to when he was the starting QB for the Chicago Bears. Cutler is 1-3 all time vs. New Orleans; with a 34-32 win over the Saints at the Superdome during the 2008 season in which he threw for 264 yards and a TD as a member of the Denver Broncos -- the team that originally drafted him back in 2006.
Other than that win nearly a decade ago, Cutler has had some rough experiences with the Saints over the years; which includes an 0-3 record vs. the Saints when he was the Bears starting QB which included him getting sacked a total of SIXTEEN times --- including 7 sacks the last time he faced the Saints in 2014.
Cutler had retired after last season and was set to become a network TV analyst; but when Dolphins lost QB Ryan Tannehill to a torn ACL injury, they were able to convince him to play one more season in 2017. Cutler actually looked good in their Pre-Season, but it hasn't translated to much success thus far in the regular season despite being surrounded by a trio of talented WR's and an All-Pro RB in Jay Ajayi. In 2 games, Cutler has thrown for just 450 yards and has a QBR of only 83.8.
This Sunday Morning, Cutler's hard luck against New Orleans will continue; as the Saints defense -- fresh off of an at-times dominant performance against Cam Newton and the Panthers -- makes Cutler's life a "living hell" for 3 hours; sacking him 4 times along while grabbing 2 interceptions, including one of Cutler's errant throws that sets up an offensive score for New Orleans early in the 3rd Quarter.
#3. ON THE "FLIP SIDE", IT'S ANOTHER MASTERFUL PERFORMANCE FOR SAINTS QB DREW BREES AND THE SAINTS PASSING ATTACK
Saints QB Drew Brees (not surprisingly) is still as sharp as ever despite now playing in his 16th NFL season; with 76 completions out of 111 attempts thus far for a total of 867 yards and 6 TD's; along with zero interceptions and a QBR rating of 109.7.
You'll have to forgive Brees for making that 'smacking' sound that's currently emanating from his lips this week; as he is no doubt "licking his chops" against a Dolphins defense that allowed 103 yards rushing and 233 yards passing last week to perhaps the NFL's WORST offense in the league -- the New York Jets.
If you think Miami's "D" struggled somewhat against the Jets, then facing Brees and the Saints high-powered attack -- who get back #2 WR Willie Snead from suspension in this game (more on him in a moment) -- could get downright ugly.
Brees will continue to add to his impressive start to 2017; as the ageless soon-to-be 39 year old wonder throws for 336 yards and 3 more TD's, while guiding the Saints offensive attack to one of their better showings of the young season thus far.
#2. SAINTS WIDE RECEIVER WILLIE SNEAD RETURNS TO THE LINE-UP, AND MAKES AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT
As it's obviously been covered in great detail in recent days: the Saints offense will get Snead back for this game; as he returns from serving a 3-game suspension to start the season after violating the NFL's personal conduct policy with a June arrest for driving drunk.
However, as it was noted by New Orleans Advocate beat writer Joel A. Erickson this morning: how much Snead plays in his first game of the season remains to be seen. Erickson makes the observation that players under suspension can have no contact with the team, so Snead has been working out on his own and may not be in the same kind of game shape other players have been.
Said Saints head coach Sean Payton to Erickson and other reporters yesterday: "We'll wait and see how he's moving around. It's been a little bit of time since he has been playing. We'll see how he handles the work week."
Translated, that's "Payton speak" for: you'll find out after the game starts.
However, don't be surprised that even if he doesn't get a "heavy workload" in this contest, that Payton will find a way to utilize Snead when it matters the most, as the veteran 3rd year WR and key contributor to the Saints offense; grabs 4 receptions for 56 yards but most importantly: a crucial 4th Quarter TD pass from Brees that gives New Orleans a late lead in the 2nd half.
#1. DESPITE WINNING THE STATISTICAL BATTLE, THE SAINTS STILL TRAIL THE DOLPHINS LATE IN THE 4TH QUARTER WHEN.......
Despite winning the statistical battle in which the Saints offense accumulates over 400 plus yards of total offense and makes life difficult for Cutler and the Miami passing game, it's Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi who single-handedly keeps Miami in this contest.
Ajayi GASHES the Saints offense for 172 yards on 22 carries; including a 72-yard run to give the Dolphins a slim lead right before halftime. Ajayi then scores another TD early in the 4th quarter to put Miami up by 3 points in a "see-saw", back-and-forth contest that threatens to get even worse for New Orleans when Ted Ginn, Jr. fumbles a punt return that allows Miami to tack on an additional field goal for a 30-24 lead in the contest, with less than 4 minutes remaining.
The Saints offense then gets the ball back and faces the prospect of having to drive 80 yards and needing a TD to take the lead and hopefully win the game. Brees then cooly and calmly leads the Saints on a methodical drive, brilliantly mixing in a pass here and a run there; with the rookie RB Kamara making a key 3rd down conversion to set the Saints up inside the Dolphins 30 yard line right before the 2-minute Warning.
On the very next play after the 2-minute Warning, Brees finds Snead on a seam route over the middle near the 10-yard line, and after breaking a tackle, Snead dives across the goal line for the go-ahead score and a 31-30 lead.
Miami then get one last shot to pull it out, but Cutler is pressured by Cam Jordan; who forces a bad throw from the Dolphins QB right into the willing and waiting hands of safety Marcus Williams -- as the rookie defender makes an outstanding play on the ball in coverage in front of a streaking Miami WR DeVante Parker to help New Orleans escape with a 1-point victory in "merry old England"..........
FINAL SCORE: SAINTS 31, DOLPHINS 30