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
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.
Saints rush offense vs. Cards rush defense
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.