Arizona Cardinals: Know Your Enemy – Week 1 – New Orleans
By Erich Becker
Get to know a little about this week’s opponent in the New Orleans Saints, Fantasy Impact and Prediction
New Orleans Saints
2014 Record: 7-9 (2nd NFC South)
Total 2014 Defensive Rating: 31st (Source: NFL.com)
Total 2014 Offensive Rating: 3rd (Source: NFL.com)
Current Power Ranking: 16
The Arizona Cardinals open up the season this week vs. the New Orleans Saints, the once, perennial powerhouse in the NFC South with an amazing set of receivers, one of the best, if not the best tight ends in the league and a quarterback who could sling the ball all over the field. Some of those things are still intact, although missing a step or two.
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This creates an interesting match-up in the Cardinals favor this week, not only because the Saints finished the season in 2014 giving up the second most yards, but the teams top safety Jairus Byrd will not play (but did avoid the PUP list) and CB Keenan Lewis will miss 4-6 weeks after hip surgery.
The Cardinals, loaded at receiver, even without the injured Michael Floyd, plan to send Smoke and Fire (John Brown and J.J. Nelson) against a young, skilled, but inexperienced secondary. With Larry Fitzgerald running all over the field and Carson Palmer loaded to bear and show everyone that he’s back and ready to continue where he left off when the Cardinals were 6-0 in games he started in 2014.
The Saints are also without Jimmy Graham, an offensive beast who was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in the offseason. So instead of the Cardinals having to face him once this season, they have to face him twice for the foreseeable future. Graham tallied 889 yards, 85 receptions and 10 TDs in 2014, a huge portion of total offense.
Graham’s size and skill will be missed and the Saints don’t have anyone comparable on the roster. Listed on the current roster are Brandon Coleman, Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead at wide receiver, the middle two are great players, but not so great as the Saints are satisfied with the team working out recently axed WR Hakeem Nicks this week.
Still, this isn’t a team to overlook, simply because you don’t know what you’re getting anymore. Sean Payton is a very capable coach and can draw up a game plan that will highlight the strengths of the players on the roster, even if the run game has been anemic over the last few seasons.
The Saints look to turn a corner, shedding salary and preparing to rebuild the roster with another sub-.500 season a distinct possibility, but the adrenaline of the season finally starting will be very prevalent during the game.
The one thing the Cardinals want to do in this game is set up the run, the Saints were fourth worst in the league giving up an average of 132.8 yards/game on the ground in 2014 with an average of 4.8 yards/carry and 17 TDs to running plays over the course of 16 games. With Chris Johnson on the roster in the number two spot behind the dynamic Andre Ellington, we could finally see a 100 yard rusher from a Ellington and the team as a whole lace together a decent ground game and open up the secondary to be exploited by the aforementioned speed and skill of the receiving core.
The game stands to be an interesting barometer for the season for both teams, can the offense of New Orleans recover from the loss of Jimmy Graham? Can the defense stop, well, anything, or can the Cardinals do something they failed to do more than a few times last season, exploit a team they should beat and handily put the game away early?
We have Sunday to figure it out.
Carson Palmer stands to have a great game with this matchup, New Orleans was a sieve last season giving up chunks of yards and TDs both in the air and on the ground. With speed and skill on the roster, Palmer is a definite start (I’m starting him over Matt Ryan).
John Brown and Andre Ellington both stand to have great games as well, but if the ground game can keep the defense off the field, don’t look for a big outing from Arizona’s secondary, known for their turnovers and one of the highest scoring defenses as far as points go over the last few seasons.
Cardinals start out fast, never let off the pedal and put the Saints away in the first half. Cardinals 31 Saints 10.