Monday Night Football
Miami @ New Orleans
The Dolphins head to the Superdome undefeated, but at significantly less than 100% health. Star LE Cameron Wake (MCL sprain) may only be available for passing downs, and NT Paul Soliai (knee) is week to week. Slot CB Dimitri Patterson (groin) suffered a setback last week and didn't play against Atlanta, allowing Julio Jones (9-115) to light up RCB Nolan Carroll. Drew Brees is catching fire again following a slightly slow start, and has a plus matchup on Monday night. The Dolphins entered Week 4 ranked 20th in pass defense. ... Playing 59% of his snaps outside or in the slot, Jimmy Graham entered the week leading all tight ends in targets (by seven), receptions (by three), yards (by 89), and standard-league fantasy points (by nine). The Dolphins get heated up frequently by tight ends because coordinator Kevin Coyle is a believer in blitzing, and tight ends are often the quarterback's hot read. Coyle may blitz Brees even more than usual in an attempt to compensate for a banged-up Wake. ... Brees' target distribution through three weeks: Graham 38, Marques Colston 21, Darren Sproles 20, Pierre Thomas 15, Lance Moore 11, Kenny Stills 8, Ben Watson 5, Robert Meachem 3. ... Graham has hogged early-season receiving production, but it's only a matter of time before double teams begin benefiting Colston. Colston also started slow last season (4-71, 3-49, 3-40 in Weeks 1-3), only to finish as the No. 12 overall fantasy receiver. He's probably the best buy-low wideout in fantasy.
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Brees has eight straight 300-yard games, the second longest streak in NFL history and one short of his own record. He's set up for a lot of yardage Monday night. Behind Graham and Colston, Sproles is the favorite for targets, catches, and yards in New Orleans. Like Colston, Sproles is off to a slow start, but is a recommended RB2/flex against Miami and should be on all buy-low radars. ... Though effective real-life players, Moore and Stills are canceling each other out of weekly box scores. Moore hasn't cleared 25 yards in a game yet. Stills' yardage totals have dropped in back-to-back weeks, and he went catch-less against Atlanta. Moore (questionable, wrist) may be inactive on Monday night, which would make Stills a viable Week 4 sleeper. ... Normally one of the league's stoutest defenses, Miami is shelling out 4.72 yards per carry to enemy ball carriers, the sixth-highest average in the league. Soliai's absence is hurting here, and Wake's limited role won't help. With Mark Ingram (toe) not expected to play Monday, Thomas is squarely in the flex mix. Thomas racked up 17 touches in last Sunday's win over Arizona, his highest touch total in any game since December of 2010. I noticed Thomas' Week 4 pricetag on FanDuel is only $5,400, 37th among running backs. He's a nice, cheap gamble in daily leagues.
Until they begin springing leaks, it's time to take Saints DC Rob Ryan's defense seriously as a tough fantasy matchup for enemy skill-position players. Ryan has built a unit with which to be reckoned. The Saints rank fourth in total defense after three games, with only four clubs allowing fewer points. New Orleans is No. 4 versus the pass. Ryan Tannehill has carried the Dolphins' offense through offensive-line talent shortages and run-game inconsistency, but will face a lot of pressure on Monday night. The Saints are a top-seven team in Pro Football Focus' pass-rush metrics, blitzing in an efficient and responsible manner. Tannehill only ranks 23rd in fantasy quarterback scoring. He could still pay off as a two-QB-league start if this game turns into a shootout. ... Miami is more likely to have rushing success at the Superdome, as Ryan's defense ranks 20th versus the run and second to last in yards-per-carry allowed (5.30). Unfortunately, the Dolphins' coaching staff has refused to commit to a feature back. Starter Lamar Miller has played 94 snaps on the season, but is struggling in pass protection and averaging 12 touches for 50 yards a game. He had a bad drop in last week's win over Atlanta, costing the Fins a long gain. Daniel Thomas has played 93 snaps and is averaging eight touches per game. In pass pro, Thomas has allowed a sack in back-to-back games. He got Tannehill hit repeatedly last week.
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Tannehill's target distribution: Brian Hartline 28, Mike Wallace 21, Brandon Gibson 20, Charles Clay 19, Miller 6, Rishard Matthews 4, Thomas 3. ... Resistant to bracket coverage as a press-man believer, Ryan's defense has shown some vulnerability to opposing No. 1 receivers. Julio Jones touched up the Saints for a 7-76-1 line in Week 1. In Week 2, Vincent Jackson registered a 5-77 spot that would've been much larger had a 73-yard TD not been called back. Coming off a debilitating hamstring injury last week, Larry Fitzgerald caught 5-of-6 targets for 64 yards against New Orleans. Wallace dropped 95 yards on Ryan's Dallas defense last December. He's a strong WR2 on Monday night. ... Hartline has been the beneficiary of Wallace's attention-commanding presence, leading Miami in targets and ranking 14th in fantasy receiver scoring through three games. I'm very skeptical Hartline keeps up those numbers, but he's worth a WR3 start in a potentially pass-happy affair. ... H-back Clay is a chain-moving possession receiver underneath and gets random goal-line carries. Clay's upside is minimal, but you could do worse in a crunch. Clay is playing 85% of Miami's offensive snaps and does far more route running than blocking.
Score Prediction: Saints 30, Dolphins 24
Video: Dolphins - Saints fantasy preview