If you believe the national pundits, this is a match-up of two struggling teams.
But there’s struggling, and then there’s the Cardinals.
Sure, the Saints haven’t looked particularly sharp and needed a last-minute field goal to beat the winless Carolina Panthers last week. But New Orleans is still 3–1, it’s still tied atop the NFC South and it still has Drew Brees. Nearly every team in the league would take that kind of struggle.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, have real problems. Veteran quarterback Derek Anderson was benched last week because he kept throwing balls to guys in the wrong uniform, and backup Max Hall, an undrafted rookie, was just as ineffective. Hall will get his first career start Sunday.
Meanwhile, the defense has allowed more than 40 points in four of its last six games dating back to the end of the 2009 season.
So don’t tell the Cardinals about the Saints’ struggles. They don’t want to hear it.
Keys for the Cardinals
• Don’t fall behind early. Coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to emphasize the running game now that Kurt Warner is gone, but that’s tough to do when the Cardinals find themselves trailing by three touchdowns early in games. If Arizona can keep the game close, perhaps Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower can poke some holes in the Saints’ defense.
• The Cardinals’ run defense has been abominable, allowing career backups Jason Snelling and Mike Tolbert to run for 100 yards. It’s time Arizona’s Pro Bowl players — defensive end Darnell Dockett and safety Adrian Wilson, most notably — step up their games.
Keys for the Saints
• New Orleans has to find some semblance of a running game. Pierre Thomas is the leading rusher with 149 yards in four games, and he’s averaging only 3.2 yards per carry. The Saints don’t have to run for 150 yards to be effective; just enough to make Brees’ play-action fakes more effective.
• Jump on the Cardinals early. The only chance Arizona has is to get a lead, rev up the crowd and keep Brees off the field. If the Saints jump out on top, that will put more pressure on Arizona’s shaky passing game — and cause a few boos to be heard at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Hard to believe this is a match-up of two teams tied for the lead in their respective divisions. But the Saints are for real and the Cardinals aren’t. Saints 27–13