Every Sunday feels like a national holiday. It’s football from dusk till dawn and the last day off before we all head back to work on Monday. Today, we are breaking down a matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints. The Cardinals come into this game 1-1, with an impressive home win over the Detroit Lions, while New Orleans is 2-0, beating two key divisional opponents in Atlanta and Tampa Bay. I have a strong lean in this early Sunday start so let’s dive inside the numbers to see who I like.
Cardinals: I have been following the Cardinals all season and have cashed in on both their games thus far. They enter this contest 1-1 and are playing very good football under new head coach Bruce Arians. They lost a heartbreaker to the Rams week one but bounced back strong week two by defeating the Lions at home. The offense has been much more consistent this year but the team’s strength still lies in its defense. As we saw last week, they held the Lions to just 21 points. Despite a few big plays by Calvin Johnson, the Cardinals shut down both Matthew Stafford and the Lions running game. They have a solid front seven but the backbone lies in the secondary. Corners like Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu allow the Cardinals to bring more pressure because they are reliable in one on one matchups. When you have lockdown corners in the NFL, you can commit more defenders to stop the run and also bring more pressure in 3rd down situations. However, I see Arizona as an 8-8 team due to lack of offensive productivity. Carson Palmer, at this point his career, is just a game manager and is also susceptible to costly turnovers. Mendenhall hasn’t brought much of a running game over, so defenses can key in on Larry Fitzgerald and the passing game.
Saints: What a start the New Orleans Saints have had. With division rivals Atlanta and Tampa Bay scheduled the first two weeks, New Orleans could ill afford a lackadaisical start to the 2013 campaign. Well, it seems like Sean Payton has made fans forget about the ugly mess that was 2012, as the Saints sit 2-0 heading into week three. On offense, the scoring hasn’t been spectacular but expect Drew Brees to get it back on track this week. The Saints are relieved that they got through the first two weeks unscathed and now should play more relaxed in a non-divisional matchup at home. Brees still has a multitude of weapons at his disposal in WR Marques Colston RB Darren Sproles and TE Jimmy Graham but I want to talk about this defense. Bravo Rob Ryan, bravo. This man deserves a round of applause. He has taken the 32nd statistically ranked defense in 2012 (there are 32 NFL teams) and turned them into a top 10 one. They held the Bucs to just 14 points and the Falcons to just 17. They are playing like the Saints that won the Super Bowl in 2009, flying to the football, getting key 3rd down stops and forcing turnovers. Although Seattle, San Francisco and Green Bay may lie in their path, watch out for New Orleans as a dark horse Super Bowl contender, as their best football is still in front of them.
I am all over New Orleans in this game at a cheap price of -8. In my opinion, this line needs to be over 10 points. The difference between the Saints at home and on the road is night and day. If this offense gets rolling, there is no stopping it in the Superdome. And you know if Rob Ryan gets a big lead early, he is going to bring blitz after blitz and force Palmer into errant throws and bad decisions. I do love this Cardinals defense, but better offense beats better defense in this league and no one can pick you apart like Drew Brees can. I see no answer for Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, as the Saints play free and easy and route the Cardinals, who are feeling satisfied after getting their first win of the season.
Saints 38 Cardinals 17