DATE: Thursday, Aug. 29
TIME: 7:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.
TV: In Miami-Fort Lauderdale, WFOR-TV (CBS 4); in Fort Myers, WBBH-TV (Channel 2); in West Palm Beach, WTVX-TV (Channel 34) and WWHB (Channel 48, Spanish); in Orlando, WRDQ (Channel 27) and WFTV MegaTV (9.2 as well as on digital cable via Comcast channel 209, CenturyLink Channel 10, Cox Cable 118 and Decca Cable channel 717, Spanish). TV ANNOUNCERS:(Jesse Agler, play-by-play; Bob Griese, analysis; Nat Moore, analysis)
ONLINE: Game available on computer or tablet. Details at dolphins.com/preseasonlive.
TV REPLAY: NFL Network, Saturday, Aug. 31, 3 a.m.
THE SERIES (PRESEASON)
SERIES RECORD: Miami leads 13-7
AT MIAMI: Teams tied 4-4
AT NEW ORLEANS: Dolphins lead 9-1
AT CHARLESTON, S.C.: Saints lead 1-0
AT BALTIMORE: Saints lead 1-0
LAST MEETING: 2009 at New Orleans; Dolphins 10, Saints 7 HISTORY LESSON: The quirky thing about this preseason series is that this will be the sixth consecutive time the teams meet in a preseason finale. However, this will be the first of those six meetings to take place in South Florida. The Dolphins won four of the past five meetings, the lone exception being a 7-0 loss in 2007.
SERIES TREND: The recent preseason matchups have been close contests, with four of the last five meetings decided by seven points or less. The 2004 matchup at the Superdome, a 20-19 Dolphins victory, actually came down to a two-point conversion attempt late in the game when the Saints decided to go for the victory instead of kicking the extra point.
NEW ORLEANS’ RECORD: 3-0 in 2013 preseason; 7-9 in 2012 regular season
LAST GAME: Won 31-23 at Houston
OVERVIEW: The Saints are starting over in 2013 after a miserable season where head coach Sean Payton was sidelined by a year-long suspension and the team got off to an 0-4 start. With Payton back, the Saints are expected to return to playoff contender status and they’ve certainly looked the part this preseason.
NEW FACES: S Kenny Vaccaro (draft, 1st round), T Terron Armstead (draft, 3rd), NT John Jenkins (draft, 3rd), CB Chris Carr (San Diego), DE Kenyon Coleman (Dallas), S Jim Leonhard (Denver), CB Keenan Lewis (Pittsburgh), QB Luke McCown (Atlanta), DE Jay Richardson, TE Benjamin Watson (Cleveland)
GONE: T Jermon Bushrod (Chicago), LB Jonathan Casillas (Tampa Bay), QB Chase Daniel (Kansas City), DT Sedrick Ellis (Chicago, retired), WR Devery Henderson (Washington), RB Chris Ivory (N.Y. Jets), DE Turk McBride (Chicago), CB Johnny Patrick (released), TE David Thomas (released)
THE SAINTS’ STRENGTH ON OFFENSE: The Saints might have had a difficult 2012 season, but they still led the league in pass offense. Quarterback Drew Brees is coming off back-to-back 5,000-yard passing seasons and he has been very impressive so far in the 2013 preseason. In addition, Brees has his five leading receivers — TE Jimmy Graham, WR Marques Colston, RB Darren Sproles, WR Lance Moore, RB Pierre Thomas — back from last season. In tonight’s game, keep an eye on wide receiver Kenny Stills, a rookie fifth-round pick who is tied for the team lead with seven preseason receptions.
THE SAINTS’ QUESTION MARK ON OFFENSE: Considering they failed to gain 350 yards only three times last season, the Saints don’t have too many shortcomings on offense. Perhaps the biggest area of concern at this point is the depth at wide receiver because of the departure of veteran Devery Henderson in free agency and the season-ending injury sustained by Joe Morgan, who had been expected to replace Henderson as the team’s deep threat in 2013.
THE SAINTS’ STRENGTH ON DEFENSE: The Saints were 32nd in total defense, 32nd against the run and 31st against the pass in 2012, so it’s difficult to find something that stands out in a positive way. That said, there’s a lot of optimism for the Saints defense with the arrival of Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. He has brought his aggressive 3-4 scheme to the Saints, and the early results have been encouraging, particularly the 13 sacks in the first three preseason games.
THE SAINTS’ QUESTION MARK ON DEFENSE: The Saints traded for former 49ers starting linebacker Parys Haralson this week, and the move came as the result of a rash of injuries at the position. The biggest blow for New Orleans was losing veteran Will Smith, who was making the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in the new scheme. Veteran inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma also is out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-August, and Junior Galette has been out since Aug. 7 with a leg injury.
THE SAINTS’ STRENGTH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter Thomas Morstead made the Pro Bowl last season after averaging 50.1 yards with a net of 43.2 — two tremendous numbers. Sproles is a proven commodity as a returner, even though he didn’t have a great year returning punts last season. He’ll go into the 2013 season with five career returns for touchdowns. Travaris Cadet and Sproles split kickoff returns in 2012, with Cadet producing a long return of 75 yards.
THE SAINTS’ QUESTION MARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS: As porous as their defense was last season, the Saints didn’t give it much help with their kick coverage. New Orleans ranked in the bottom fourth in the league in both punt and kickoff return average allowed.