coleryan Posts:13337 Followers:19
On 09/16/2013 04:24 PM in NFL

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints: Preview and Pick

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints: Preview and Pick

The high flying action continues in the NFL during week three with the potential offensive onslaught in the game featuring the Arizona Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints. The Saints return home after sneaking out a nail biter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while the Cardinals hit the road after an upset home win over the Detroit Lions.

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints Odds

The NFL betting line for this game opened up with the Saints listed as nine point favorites. This line began to be bet down after the Saints struggled on the road to get the win against the Buccaneers. The Cardinals strong effort in the desert against the Lions was enough for this line to be bet down and it can now be found at -7.5 at several of the top rated online sportsbooks. This line could go back up as the public is backing the Saints to the tune of 68 percent according to sports consensus sites.

The Saints are a much different team at home and if the Cardinals want to shut down this offense they better guard the tight end. Jimmy Graham posted or tied career highs with 10 catches on 16 targets for 179 yards and seven first downs on Sunday. Graham caught 4-of-5 targets at least 15 yards downfield for 121 yards and a touchdown and was by far Brees' most effective downfield receiver. He will be the most likely target against the Cardinals as well.

Carson Palmer looked graet for the Cardinals but they also have a very good running game. Rashard Mendenhall's 4.4 yards per rush average was the third highest by a Cardinals rusher with at least 15 rushes since the start of last year. Against the Lions he rushed for 66 yards and scoredthe game winner late. This could come in handy against a Saints defense that was beaten down against the runs as Doug Martin put up big numbers for the Bucs.

The latest NFL trends focus on the Saints home dominance. The Saints have won 14 of the last 18 games under the dome and six of the last seven games against the Cardinals. In those games the Cardinals are just 2-5 against the spread (ATS) against the Saints and the Cardinals are just 2-12 overall straight up in the last 14 games. Something has to give in the Big Easy when they Birds travel east to take on the Saints.

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13337 Followers:19
09/17/2013 03:55 PM

The New Orleans Saints are 2-0 in 2013, primarily because of their defense. In Week 1, the Saints defense held the high-powered Atlanta Falcons to only 17 points. Then in Week 2, the defense went on the road and only allowed one touchdown to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although the Saints made several key additions, such as S Kenny Vaccaro and CB Keenan Lewis, to their defense, New Orleans' biggest addition (no pun intended) will not play a down in 2013.

After allowing the most yards in NFL history in 2012, the Saints hired Rob Ryan as their new defensive coordinator. New Orleans felt that Ryan's 3-4 scheme was a better fit for its defensive personnel. What the Saints needed was a way to generate pressure on opposing QBs without having to blitz. Invariably, the old Saints would blitz and still not sack the QB, which exposed New Orleans' secondary.

Through two games, Ryan has rarely blitzed, but New Orleans has four sacks. More importantly, the Saints' ability to keep seven or eight defenders in coverage has seriously impeded the ability of their first two opponents to pass effectively. Falcons QB Matt Ryan and Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman combined for only 429 passing yards against Rob Ryan's defense.

Except for one big run by Steven Jackson, New Orleans kept the Falcons RB in check for most of the game. Buccaneers RB Doug Martin had a good game against the Saints defense, but he needed 29 carries to reach 144 yards. More importantly, New Orleans kept Martin out of the end zone.

The most important thing that Rob Ryan has instilled in the Saints defense is a sense of confidence. Ryan's improved Saints are actually playing well despite numerous injuries. In fact, Ryan is using several second and third string players, who either played very little for the porous 2012 Saints defense or were discarded by other NFL teams. Ryan is getting the maximum output from his defense in New Orleans, which is all that any coach could ask for.

Through Week 2, Rob Ryan's defense will not rank at the top of the NFL. The Saints were 17th in total yards allowed after defeating the Falcons and they will likely only rise a few places after Week 2. But the Saints don't need their defense to be great. Even an average defense should be enough to get New Orleans back to the playoffs. The ability to rush the passer and force turnovers is all the Saints need from Rob Ryan's defense in 2013.

If the first two games are any indication, it may take Sean Payton and Drew Brees more time than anticipated to reestablish their rhythm. The Saints have moved the ball in 2013, but they were surprisingly inefficient in the red zone versus the Buccaneers. In fact, Brees threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD. I never thought I'd say this, but the 2013 New Orleans Saints are undefeated because of their defense.

Most Saints fans believed that the return of Sean Payton would be the difference for New Orleans in 2013. Although New Orleans certainly needs Payton's leadership, Rob Ryan has been the most important addition through two games.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13337 Followers:19
09/18/2013 03:57 PM

The Arizona Cardinals are — wait for it — one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NFL.

With the many upgrades made to both sides of the football, the Cardinals are now considered the dark horse in the NFC West. With two young quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, as well as a still-unproven Sam Bradford in the division, anything is possible.

Though the 2012 season yielded very high praise Kaepernick and Wilson, the dreaded sophomore slump is upon them. So far this year, the San Francisco 49ers have had a Jekyll and Hyde first two weeks in the QB slot. Wilson, on the other hand, has proven so far that he’s the real deal for the Seattle Seattle Seahawks.

With the acquisition of Carson Palmer, everything changed in Cardinals Country. A competent, albeit older, quarterback coupled with an offensive-minded head coach could be the perfect storm that lifts the wool blanket over University of Phoenix Stadium to unleash the beast that all Arizonians have been waiting for since Kurt Warner retired.

Larry Fitzgerald‘s career has a pulse again. Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts now have a chance to make an impact because their well-being is directly correlated to the performance of Fitz.

Now, the defense. A bright spot, and maybe the only bright spot last season has the dreaded Achilles’ heel of not being able to hang on to a lead — a Cardinal sin, if you will. Patrick Peterson and the newly-drafted Tyrann Matthieu have sparked the Cardinals with one of the most exciting subplots in professional sports: extremely raw, talented youth.

Peterson is starting to come into his own while the Honey Badger is still, and has always been, a wildcard. This wildcard, however, has nothing but upside. Because the Cardinals drafted him in third round, they’re playing with house money. If he does what the front office and coaches think he can do, watch out NFL.

The Cardinals have the seventh-toughest schedule for the 2013 NFL season, so it’s going to be tough to not only make it out of arguably the toughest division in the NFL, but even obtain one of those playoff slots. If they get a couple of bounces, stay healthy and keep the high-powered Bruce Arians offense on full blast all year, who knows … the Arizona Cardinals may just come out of the NFC West on top.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13337 Followers:19
09/19/2013 02:43 PM

Geez. What does Jimmy Graham have to do to get noticed? The New Orleans Saints' star tight end had a career-best performance in Sunday’s 16-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with 10 catches, 179 yards and a touchdown. But it wasn’t enough to earn him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors (thanks to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' 480-yard, four-touchdown performance).

Worse yet, Graham’s performance barely captured the attention of his own quarterback.

Drew Brees said Wednesday that he’s so used to such efforts from Graham at this point that he didn’t even realize the numbers his go-to guy was racking up Sunday.

“Walking away from it, had you asked me, ‘Hey, what do you think Jimmy’s numbers were today?’ I wouldn’t have thought it was that much. But I guess looking back on it, you start adding it up and you’re like, ‘OK,’” Brees said. “So I guess my point is, not that you have this expectation level, but you are just used to seeing a lot of those plays being made. It’s not like taking him for granted. But I think we all just expect that if we are not putting up 400-plus yards as an offense, score 30-plus points, running the ball well, throwing the ball well, hitting some big plays, doing these things … when those things don’t happen is when you notice.

“When they’re happening, it’s just like, ‘This is what we do.’”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13337 Followers:19
09/20/2013 07:13 PM

The last thing New Orleans Saints defensive tackle John Jenkins wants for the young, budding defensive line is to be placed atop a pedestal, especially after only two weeks into the 2013 season.

Yet it's hard not to call these guys "The Big Easys" as preseason promise has quickly melded into regular-season production through the first two games. Imagine the opportunities, T-shirt shop owners.

The Saints' young frontline is big, with an average weight of 307 pounds for Jenkins, Cam Jordan, Junior Galette and Akiem Hicks. And their easygoing demeanors off the field are the exact opposite on Sundays, as quarterbacks Matt Ryan of Atlanta and Josh Freeman of Tampa Bay can attest.

The Saints may only sit tied for 17th in the league with four sacks, but the consistent pressure on quarterbacks hasn't gone unnoticed. Jordan has the second best "Pass Rushing Productivity" in the NFL at his position, according to Pro Football Focus, while Hicks ranks fifth. Ryan faced pressure from the Saints on 48 percent of his throws in Week 1.

"I'd say, especially for young players, they're really coming (on)," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "They work hard every day with (defensive line coach) Bill (Johnson) and he obviously is a great teacher. These guys are smart to listen, and they work hard. They are going to only improve. Each week I think we'll get improvement out of those guys and we got a lot of fight out of them last week; they got a lot of snaps.

"That was a player's game (vs. Tampa Bay) all the way. There weren't a whole lot of checks to it or anything; it was just us lining up and playing. I thought our D-line competed really well. I know we gave up a lot of yards, but some of those yards are on me calling the game just with the way the game was being played, and living with some of those runs."

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer may be one of the least mobile quarterbacks the Saints will face this season when New Orleans (2-0) hosts Arizona (1-1) on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome -- which could mean the defensive front may have another successful outing. Palmer has been sacked five times in two weeks and has lost a fumble.

Two games doesn't make a defense. It's why the hunger for greatness is a consistent theme for the youthful front.

"We're not taking anything for granted," said Galette, who's playing mostly defensive end right now rather than outside linebacker because of attrition. "That's the beauty of this group. It feels like they need to earn their stripes and I need to earn my stripes.

"We're all young. Some of us are a little unknown. But we have more experience than people think. And at the same time, everybody is hungry and wants to earn respect."

The Saints' past defensive fronts under coach Sean Payton typically possessed a heavy dose of veterans with youth sprinkled here and there.

That's not the case this season, looking at the players' ages:
•23 -- Hicks, Tyrunn Walker, Glenn Foster
•24 -- Jordan, Jenkins, Martez Wilson (he played defensive end against Tampa Bay)
•25 -- Junior Galette
•29 -- Brodrick Bunkley, Tom Johnson

Galette said while it's been only two games, there's no other way to view the defensive front's performance other than a positive.

"We wouldn't want it any other way," Galette said. "It's much better to be talked about in this way than in the other way. This is a good problem to have, opposed to us starting 0-2 and be in something like last year: 'Where's the pressure? The front seven needs to step up.'

"It's the other way around right now. But we just need to keep building on that and not lose sight of our main goal and that's to be the best we can be and not compare ourselves to anyone else in the league."

Hicks, in his second season, played 90 percent of the snaps last week, while Jenkins, in his first start in the NFL, played 86 percent of the time in Tampa Bay. Galette said it's a positive for those two players in particular to play so many snaps this early in their careers. The experience will only help down the line.

"We're having fun," Jenkins said. "That's a really good thing. You have a bunch of guys who you enjoy coming to work and being with. That's not just talk, you know? It's real. Day in and day out, we really enjoy each other.

"So when you have a group of guys who all work hard together and enjoy each other, it brings out the best on the field. We don't have things like when veterans are worried about their contracts and other things. We're all growing together into a great unit. There's no 'me.' It's all about what can I do to help us."

The defensive front will look to perform better against the run against Arizona than it had last week in Tampa Bay. Bucs running back Doug Martin muscled his way for 144 yards on 29 carries in the Saints' 16-14 win. The Saints did a better job with Steven Jackson in Week 1 against the Falcons, despite yielding a 50-yard run. New Orleans held Jackson to just 27 yards in his other 10 carries.

The Saints could potentially deal with a Jackson-type back on Sunday as the Cardinals' Rashard Mendenhall is known more for his bruising style. Mendenhall is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and his 126 rushing yards are almost as many as the Saints have compiled as a team (153 yards). But Mendenhall missed all of practice this week with a toe injury, so Arizona could be shorthanded.

Improving against the run is one of the reasons why Jenkins said no one on this promising unit is thinking about laying the foundation for a potentially stout frontline for many years to come.

"You just come to practice the next day and get better," Jenkins said. "Then when the game comes, you go out there and play your best. Looking too far ahead is where you fall apart. Then if things start adding up for us, it just happens. You don't jinx yourself."

Jordan, apparently, doesn't believe in jinxes.

"We want to be together as many years as we can and become a real force," Jordan said

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13337 Followers:19
09/20/2013 07:15 PM

The official injury report shows Larry Fitzgerald did not participate fully in practice Thursday because of his sore left hamstring.

In the abbreviated time reporters were allowed to watch, he didn’t do much other than to work on covering a few onside kicks.

But that’s nonsense, according to Fitzgerald.

“I feel great,” the wide receiver said. “I did everything. Full day’s workout. It was real good.”

Asked if he expects to play Sunday in New Orleans against the Saints, he said, “I expect to play every Sunday.”

Yeah, but what about this Sunday?

“Yes,” Fitzgerald said.

Told there is a school of thought that it might be best if he gives the hamstring a full week’s rest and not push things until next week’s game at Tampa Bay, Fitzgerald said, “I’ve never been to that school before.”

It sounds as if he fully expects to play Sunday, but it’s unclear how much he may be limited, if he is at all.

Meanwhile, running back Rashard Mendenhall missed his second day of practice because of a toe injury. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin didn’t sound overly concerned.

“Rashard is Rashard,” he said. “Hopefully, he’s out there. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t talk about injuries; it’s not my job. But we believe in our running-back depth.

“Whoever’s out there it’s the same motto: Next man up, let’s get in and go.

“I’m confident in all the backs and I’m sure the rest of the team is as well.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13337 Followers:19
09/21/2013 12:12 PM

Larry Fitzgerald returned to the practice field Friday but is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in New Orleans.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians confirmed Fitzgerald’s participation in practice and then evaluated his star receiver. “Looked fine,” Arians said. “Looked good.”

Fitzgerald was limited again but went through drills and ran routes at full speed during the open portion of Cardinals’ practice. He tweaked his left hamstring during practice on Sept. 11, and then left Sunday’s game against Detroit late in the third quarter.

In other injury news…

RB Rashard Mendenhall (toe) is also questionable. Arians said Mendenhall hurt his toe against Detroit. The coach said it’s not quite turf toe but “it’s damn close.” LB Kevin Minter (hamstring) will not play Sunday. TE Rob Housler (ankle), LB Lorenzo Alexander (biceps) and DE Ronald Talley (wrist) all practiced and are listed as probable.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13337 Followers:19
09/21/2013 12:13 PM

New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans' eight-year iron-man streak is in jeopardy. The four-time All-Pro is officially listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals after missing practice all week with a hamstring injury.

Tailback Mark Ingram is one of five others listed as questionable after he was held out of practice all week with a toe injury. Safeties Roman Harper (knee) and Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle) were officially ruled out Friday.

Of that group, Evans' absence would make the biggest impact. The centerpiece of the Saints' offensive line, he has been named a first-team All-Pro in each of the past four seasons. Even if Evans is able to play, he's likely to be less than 100 percent after being held out of team drills all week. If he can't go, undrafted and unproven rookie Tim Lelito is his primary backup.

Evans' streak of 114 consecutive starts is tied for the third-longest active streak in the NFL, behind only Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher (201) and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (137). Evans hasn't missed a start since he came into the league in 2006.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0
coleryan Posts:13337 Followers:19
09/22/2013 07:28 AM

This line is just too high. Carson Palmer has been a great find for this team and they are playing very good football as the secondary improves. Saints are good at home but this game will be close.

Pick: Cardinals +9

  • Last 7 Days Record: 9-4-0