The Cardinals open the season with a home game in-conference.

What2Watch4: Saints at Cardinals

NFL Kickoff, heck yeah! If you ignore the Thursday Night opener’s pre-game spectacle, you can enjoy a weekend of surprisingly unpredictable matchups.

There isn’t any information available these 32 teams — preseason games are about as predictive as a Ouija board — but that shouldn’t stop us from looking at how the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints stack up.

Saints pass offense vs. Cards pass defense

Patrick Peterson looks to bounce back from a sluggish 2014.

Patrick Peterson looks to bounce back from a sluggish 2014.

Drew Brees is a first-ballot Hall of Famer who is kind of underrated. The way to beat elite quarterbacks is by getting pressure with the front four, which the Cards have been serially unable to do. Having to blitz will put a lot of pressure on the secondary. You’d prefer to have Patrick Peterson matched up on Marques Colston and double team Brandin Cooks — but the Cards won’t have the safeties to spare. Shifty, smaller wideouts like Cooks have given Peterson fits in the past.

Advantage: Saints

Saints rush offense vs. Cards rush defense

Rodney Gunter hasn't seen a center as good as Alex Mack in his entire career.

Rodney Gunter hasn’t seen a center as good as Alex Mack in his entire career.

New Orleans boasts a backfield where somehow C.J. Spiller runs third string. While the Cards have been able to lean on a top rush defense the last two years, the center of that defense is gone in Big Daddy Dan Williams. It’s very likely that center Max Unger will be able to eat the green duo of Rodney Gunter and Xavier Williams like beignets.

Advantage: Saints

Cards pass offense vs. Saints pass defense

The Cards will feature a healthy quarterback who destroyed terrible pass defenses when healthy in 2014. The Saints not only boast a terrible pass defense (27th in DVOA last year), they got worse when they cut pass rusher Junior Galette. Free agent addition Brandon Browner should be good for at least one defensive pass interference penalty in a clutch situation.

Advantage: Cards

Cards rush offense vs. Saints pass defense

Oof. The Cardinals offensive line is in a shambles whether we want to admit it or not. Our starting right tackle wasn’t good enough to be active as a guard for more than 10 games last year; our starting left guard couldn’t compete with A.Q. Shipley for the center job. The Saints have been focused on improving their 32nd-ranked rush defense from last year by DVOA, including bringing in Kevin Williams.

Advantage: Saints

Special teams

C.J. Spiller will be a 3rd down back and return punts and kicks for the Saints. A combination of Brittan Golden and J.J. Nelson will do so for the Cards. I think that Chandler Catanzaro is more trustworthy than Saints kicker Nate Hocker.

Advantage: Cards

 

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals 24, New Orleans Saints, 21

 Cardiac Cards take advantage of their home crowd to eke out a win against a team that might be better than people think come the end of the season.

3 replies
  1. Eric D
    Eric D says:

    So you see the Cards winning this game with their pass offense, special teams and the home crowd? I actually think the rush offense will be even and Cards win 31-21

    Reply
    • Ben Kamper
      Ben Kamper says:

      I do. I think that the passing games are a wash, and I’m concerned about our run defense until I see it at work. I think it’s okay to be nervous about Rodney Gunter and Xavier Williams.

      At least early in the season, this defense could look a lot like the 2008 playoff defense: gives up a ton of yards but can make a play at the right moment. The last two years, we’ve been treated to a grinding defense (2014 – 10th in yards per drive, 2nd in drive success rate, 5th in points per drive; 2013 – 2nd in yards per drive, 2nd in TOP per drive, 6th in points per drive). I don’t think we’ll be that consistent this season, particularly early in the year.

      Reply
      • Eric D
        Eric D says:

        I agree. The D wasn’t all that special last year. They gave up tons of yards multiple games, but to go back about what you said about the D is they came up with a big play when needed. Hopefully they can continue that and the majority of the offense can stay healthy, so they when the D gets a turnover in opponents territory they can score a TD instead of a FG or nothing…..

        Reply

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