Thursday, October 7, 2010

Week Five Preview: Saints @ Cardinals

The Black and Gold could not have made it to the soft quarter of their schedule (at least relatively speaking) at a better time as the roster looks like a MASH unit.

Reserve safety and Super Bowl on-side kick hero Chris Reis is out for the season.

Starting cornerback and Super Bowl INT hero Tracy Porter is out for two to four weeks with a knee injury.

Running back Reggie Bush is going to be out for several more games and starting running back Pierre Thomas did not practice on Thursday, nursing an ankle injury. Also not practicing was starting defensive end Will Smith, who may not play on Sunday.

While the Arizona Cardinals are 2-2 and are atop the NFC West (Worst?), nobody is projecting them to be in contention for a trip to the Super Bowl. The Cardinals two wins came against bottom of the barrel teams: the Oakland Raiders and the Saint Louis Rams and both games were close.

Their losses, however, were spectacular surrendering 41 points to both Atlanta and San Diego.

Their division might as well be determined by a raffle drawing. The winless San Francisco Forty-Niners still have enough space on the schedule to win the division.

The red birds have not known stability this season. After future hall of fame quarterback Kurt Warner retired after the Saints eliminated his team from the playoffs last season, back-up Matt Leinart was expected to step up and be their quarterback of the future.

Unfortunately for both, the future wasn't very long.

The Cardinals organization cut the former first round draft pick before setting their 53-man roster on the eve of regular season play. Rookie quarterback Max Hall will start for the first time in a regular season game on Sunday. Hall threw 14 passes against the San Diego Chargers last weekend, connecting on 8 and was picked off once.

The Arizona offense is ranked 29th in the league in points per game (14.5), 31st in yards (251.5 per game) faring better on the ground with an average of 99 yards per game (18th in the league) but struggling in the air with an average of 152.5 passing yards per game (29th in the NFL).

With their passing game far from set, expect the Cardinals to try to exploit the Saints' 26th ranked run-defense (giving up an average of 138.2 yards on the ground).

The Saints offense SHOULD have a field day against the oft-victimized Arizona defense. Their D is 31st in points allowed (29.5 per game), 29th in overall yards (388 average) proving weaker against the run (154.8 yards per game- 30th in the NFL) than against the pass (233.2 through the air- 23rd in the league).

The bad news for the Saints is that their rushing attack , which hasn't done much this season, is largely riding the pine. The Saints are 30th in the NFL on the ground, rushing for 73.2 yards per game while quarterback Drew Brees's aerial show ranks 5th, throwing for an average of 270.8 yards per game.

Thus far this season, the Saints have won ugly. Even though they're on the road, here is the team's best opportunity to light the board up offensively while their defense will be challenged mostly on the ground.

This game could also be an important milestone for Saints running back Chris Ivory as either the contest that solidifies his standing with the team or the place where chronic fumblitis marks the beginning of the end of his time in a black and gold uniform.

In other words, the Saints shouldn't be winning this game off of John Carney's foot.

What Say the Boys in Vegas?

USA Today oddsmaker Danny Sheridan has chalked the Saints as 6.5 favorites. If the Saints cover, it'll mark their largest margin of victory for the season. The low spread could be because of the battered defense and their questionable running game. Also the Saints tend to play at the level of their competition- remember the close shaves against the Washington Redskins and Saint Louis Rams last season? But I'm a believer this week. Give the points. Saints should win by double-digits.

Will the Sun Roof Be Open?

Head coach Sean Payton confidently predicted that the roof at University of Phoenix Stadium will be closed during his Thursday post-practice interview.

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