DAVIE (AP) _ By South Florida standards anyway, it was a seasonable 71 degrees Monday morning with a cooling north breeze when the Miami Dolphins returned to the practice field.
It's only going to get hotter the rest of the week, literally and figuratively.
The unbeaten New Orleans Saints _ easy winners in all five of their games, with the NFL's top-rated quarterback in Drew Brees and the league's best offense so far in terms of points (38.4) and yards (430.0) per outing _ visit on Sunday, Oct. 25, unquestionably the biggest test yet for a Dolphins team that had won two straight entering their bye week.
“I don't think there's any doubt about that,'' Miami offensive lineman Justin Smiley said. “Just an all-around good team, from offense from defense to special teams. Those guys are really good. We've played some teams with one or two stars; this whole front seven is a bunch of studs. So we've got our work cut out for us, but we'll be ready.''
Sure, the season isn't even half-over, but the Saints are looking very much an offensive juggernaut. Entering Monday night's game, there's been six instances of teams scoring 45 or more points this season.
The Saints have three of those _ in only five contests.
“We need to worry about our own piece of turf here,'' Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. “We need to take care of our own business and be as sound as we can, make sure that we know. Our assignment and our execution is going to be important.''
New Orleans put up 48 points Sunday in a win over the previously unbeaten New York Giants, who had yielded 17, 31, 0, 16 and 7 points before their visit to the Louisiana Superdome. The Giants went into the weekend allowing an average of 210.6 yards per game, before the Saints piled up 493 against them.
It made for some interesting television viewing when the Dolphins were off Sunday.
“Once in a while I'd look up and say, 'OK, they're hitting on all cylinders right now,“' cornerback Nathan Jones said. “I don't know what happened on the Giants side of the ball, but I know we've got to come ready. We can't and we don't want that to happen.''
For at least one Miami player, this game means much more than just another 'W' or another 'L.'
Shortly after New Orleans finished the Giants off on Sunday, Miami linebacker Akin Ayodele's phone rang. The caller was his brother, New Orleans defensive tackle Remi Ayodele.
An undisclosed wager was quickly made. Indeed, it'll be brother vs. brother.
“He called me right after the game, talking a little trash,'' Akin Ayodele said. “It's going to be an exciting game, playing against a potent offense. They've got a good defense up there too. We've got a lot of family coming down, making it a family affair.''
The Dolphins might need an entire family of defenders to slow Brees down.
Brees hasn't seen the Dolphins since 2005, back when he wore San Diego colors, but hasn't enjoyed facing Miami.
He's lost all three of his previous appearances against Miami, throwing for less than 200 yards in two of those games and only managing two touchdowns _ both coming in a 23-21 loss in December 2005 _ against five interceptions. Brees also was sacked 12 times in those games.
In fact, the only Saints quarterbacks who've ever beaten Miami are Jim Everett (1995), Bobby Hebert (1992) and Ken Stabler (1983).
“The quarterback drives the offense,'' Akin Ayodele said. “It's a quarterback-driven offense. And looking at Drew, everywhere he's been, he's pretty much done a great job in being efficient and taking control.''
If the Dolphins know how to derail Brees, Ayodele wasn't telling.
“Can't tell you everything,'' he said.