Cardinals Offense vs. Saints Defense
Arizona will have a new look and, hopefully, a new result on offense with rookie Max Hall taking the reigns under center. This will be baptism by fire for the BYU product against a fast, aggressive defense that relishes pinning its ears back and coming after opposing quarterbacks.
Hall should rely on his running game as New Orleans has struggled against the run this season, surrendering over 138 yards per game. The Saints' secondary could also be vulnerable with CB Tracy Porter out and safety Roman Harper slowed by a sore hamstring. However, the Cards' offensive line has struggled against dynamic pass rushes all season and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will utilize different looks with linebacker Jonathan Vilma and safety Malcolm Jenkins lining up all over the field.
Cardinals Defense vs. Saints Offense
New Orleans has one of the most explosive passing attacks in the NFL, paced by QB Drew Brees and a talented corps of receivers. The focus should be on the Saints' passing attack with top running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush out with injuries. The Redbirds' defense has been prone to giving up big plays, particularly on third down. The defense must be more consistent and keep playmakers like Jeremy Shockey and Marques Colston under wraps. Pressure on Brees from Darnell Dockett, Joey Porter and others will be necessary to give the Cardinals a chance on Sunday.
Key Player: Alan Faneca
You could put the entire offensive line here, but Faneca takes precedent as he'll likely match up against Sedrick Ellis. The biggest boost for Hall will be to get comfortable in the pocket and have adequate time to find his receivers. This becomes more of a priority with veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet missing their second straight game with injuries. A young quarterback and group of wideouts puts the responsibility squarely on the offensive line to create time to throw and holes for the running backs. It should be the veteran Faneca leading the way.
Arizona has struggled in one way or another in each game this season and that trend is unlikely to change against the defending champion Saints with an unproven rookie signal caller. The Cardinals do have home-field advantage and this is not the same unstoppable New Orleans team they saw in the playoffs last season.
The Saints have been played close in 2010, with each of their game decided by five points or less. If the Big Red can keep the score close by controlling the clock, they may have a chance. However, their inconsistency on defense is likely to continue against a talented air attack and they will head into the bye week under .500.
Saints 31, Cardinals 20
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