Arizona Cardinals At New Orleans Saints: Divisional Round Preview

The Arizona Cardinals head off to face the #1 seeded New Orleans Saints on Saturday. They won't play another game at University of Phoenix Stadium but the Cardinals went 6-2 on the road this year and haven't skipped a beat playing in opposing team's stadiums. They will have their hands full as they are coming off an overtime thriller against the Packers just six days ago. Do the Cardinals have what it takes to knock of the top Saints?

The Cardinals

We all know that the Cardinals were a good regular season team, quite possibly better then their 2008 counterpart. They won 10 games for the first time since arriving to Arizona two decades ago, and were a much more balanced team on offense. Last week they narrowly beat a very good Green Bay Packers team, and now face the number one ranked scoring offense this week. They couldn't pull out the Super Bowl victory last year, but destiny could be on their side Saturday as they make another run for a Super Bowl title.

The Saints

The Saints were one of the best regular season teams, beginning 13-0. Their offense was 1st in scoring, and they featured an MVP candidate at quarterback in Drew Brees, three very good wide receivers, and a valid rushing attack. Their defense was underrated, keeping them in games when the offense couldn't score against opposing teams. They spent their last three weeks of the season falling to their opponents, but were still able to clinch the #1 seed and skipped the first round of the playoffs. They too, are gunning for their first ever Super Bowl.

Looking at the Past

December 16th, 2007 Cardinals 24, Saints 31 - The Cardinals traveled to New Orleans to face the Saints in what would be a game to decide if both teams would remain in the playoff hunt. The Cardinals were able to hang with the Saints in the first half but turnovers and blown coverages killed them in the second. Warner threw 3 touchdowns but was picked off once, sacked twice, and fumbled twice. Brees was able to roam freely, throwing for 315 yards, 2 touchdowns, and only throwing 4 incompletions. The loss eliminated the Cardinals from playoff contention. Revenge anyone?

Three Keys To Success

  1. Defend the pass. It's no secret that the Cardinals pass defense is the weakest part of the team. Aaron Rodgers exploited that area tremendously just last week. Brees will likely try and do the same with their 4th ranked passing attack. If the Cardinals defensive backs can at least limit Brees and the offense, then they should put the Cardinals offense in better position to win the game.
  2. Limit turnovers. I don't know if I can say that enough. The Saints were number one at taking the ball away and converting them into points, especially when they were trailing in games. I know Warner is one of the - if no thee best postseason quarterback in league history, but I can't help but picturing him losing a fumble or throwing a tipped interception. The Cardinals offense needs to play smart and keep the ball away from the Saints defense.
  3. Run the ball effectively. I think this may come as a surprise to some but the Cardinals will not want to find themselves at another end of a shootout on Saturday. They are on a short week and if anything, they'll want to play keep away from Drew Brees. They somehow managed to put up 156 rushing yards on the Packers #1 run-defense, so with that being said, I'd like to see a lot of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower.

Statistic Comparisons

Is it just me or does the Saints defense have worse stats then the Cardinals defense? When did this happen?

Cardinals
Offense

vs

Saints
Defense
344.4(14th) TOT
YPG
357.8(25th)
251.0(12th) Pass
YPG
235.6(26th)
93.4(28th) Rush
YPG
122.2(21st)
23.4(11th) PPG 21.3(20th)
33(give) TO 39(take)
27(10th) Pass
TD
15(5th)
26(allowed) Sacks 35(forced)

4.1

Rush
YPA

 4.5

Saints
Offense

vs

Cardinals
Defense
403.8(1st) TOT
YPG
346.4(20th)
272.2(4th) Pass
YPG
233.7(23th)
131.6(6th) Rush
YPG
112.8(17th)
31.9(1st) PPG 20.3(14th)
25(give) TO 28(take)
34(1st) Pass
TD
22(14th)
20(allowed) Sacks 43(forced)

 4.5

Rush
YPA

4.5

Key Stat

Since 2002, teams that were 1st in offensive points per game or teams that were 1st in takeaways have not won a Super Bowl. The Saints were first in both this year.

Key Match Up

Kurt Warner vs Darren Sharper

This will be one hell of a match up on Saturday. Kurt Warner ripped apart a very good Packers defense, but he didn't have to worry about a veteran ball-hawking safety roaming the field. Sharper is coming off of a Pro Bowl year, and he was also selected to the AP All Pro 1st team. He's still got a lot left in the tank, as he lead the league with 9 interceptions. Kurt Warner has one of the quickest releases in all of football still at the age of 38. Warner will need exercise that use on Saturday, along with putting the ball where only the receiver can catch it. If not, Sharper will be waiting to return one to the house.

My Prediction: Cardinals 33, Saints 27

The best part about the Cardinals playing first this weekend, is that it will be over and done with early. If the Cardinals win, we can sit back and watch the other three games and find out who we're playing in the NFC Championship game. But that is a big IF. I can't help but worry about the Cardinals chances on Saturday, but one thing's for sure - I'll always root for them and have much faith that they can get the job done. Play smart and play dominant Ken Whisenhunt.

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