An all-NFC showdown rounds out the first Sunday of NFL action in the late afternoon as a new-look, new-style Saints squad travels to Arizona to take an a Cardinals team looking to avenge a disappointing finish to last season’s campaign.
If you’ll recall, Carson Palmer got injured late last season, derailing an excellent regular season from the Cardinals. They also endured a plethora of devastating injuries on defense, yet somehow kept it all together and qualified for the post-season. Though it ended in dismal fashion, head coach Bruce Arians let it be known that his Cardinals squad is a real threat, and should contend once again in the deep NFC. Contenders to their quest however will be a new-look New Orleans Saints group. After trading away their main offensive threat in Jimmy Graham, it’ll be interesting to see how the Saints fare in the early going of 2015. It is expected that newcomer Max Unger will shore up a weak offensive line, and how Sean Payton runs his team will be fascinating to watch. Even though it is just Week One, it’s never too early to call this regular season tilt a ‘key’ matchup. Both teams have realistic post-season aspirations, and you can bet neither team wants to start the season off in the loss column. Please read on below for a breakdown of Cards/Saints, and the official selection for some Sunday evening action.
Saints vs. Cardinals Betting Odds:
New Orleans Saints +2.5 (-105)
@ Arizona Cardinals -2.5 (-115)
Over 48.5 (-110)
Under 48.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Saints vs. Cardinals Pick:
Along with having a real deficiency up front on their offensive line, the Saints had a pretty bad defense in 2014 and I wouldn’t bank on anything changing in that department. Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense was pretty explosive last season, and with another year blessed with an array of talented weapons, the Cards could be real darkhorses coming out of the tough NFC West division. The Saints secondary can’t stop anybody, and look for youngsters John Brown and Michael Floyd to have big games receiving the ball from the crafty veteran in Palmer. Let’s also not forget about old Mr. Reliable in Larry Fitzgerald. L-Fitz is as solid of a veteran receiver as they come and is primed for yet another consistent season as he searches for added post-season success. New Orleans enters this game a depleted group in their secondary as a result to injuries from P.J. Williams and Keenan Lewis.
On the ground, the Cardinals return a healthy Andre Ellington along with talented veteran Chris Jonson and explosive rookie David Johnson. Even though the Saints are likely a tad improved with their run defense, this trio remains a talented and diverse group that can beat you in a variety of different ways. Look for Arizona’s run game to be efficient and force opposing defenses to respect it. This will definitely open things up for Palmer and that heralded aerial attack. The Cards are a dangerous offensive team and they’ll show it on Sunday.
On the other side of the football, Drew Brees is back for another kick at the can, but he’ll be without his most reliable target in tight end Jimmy Graham. While New Orleans still has weapons, it’s really too early in the season to tell how they’ll fare without him. Wideout Brandin Cooks is dangerous, but the Cardinals have both Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu to take away the pass. Brees may struggle through the air, and when you account for the excellent pass rush the Cards typically employ, it could be a challenge to move the chains for the usually offensive-minded Saints. One area they will definitely be worse off is their red-zone efficiency. Graham was a beast in this area, and without the athletic tight-end, Brees might look a tad lost until he figures out a new go-to option. Add in the fact that the dynamic and versatile C.J. Spiller is slated to miss this game due to injury, and Week 1 is not looking promising for the New Orleans Saints.
When I first saw the spread in this contest, I was admittedly a tad surprised. The Saints are going to be in a real dogfight in the league’s weakest division, the NFC South, while the Cardinals are a legitimate playoff squad from the always competitive NFC West. Arizona’s defense remains highly rated and their offense is as balanced as they come. They return the majority of last year’s starters and should be able to ride that consistency to a convincing Week 1 victory in front of what is always an electric home atmosphere. The Saints are still notoriously bad on the road, and look for Arizona to take full advantage of that on Sunday. Look for Palmer to pass all over the Saints’ secondary, and for a solid Cards’ defense to hold Brees and his new-look offense in check. Roll with the hometown Cards in this one.
PICK = Cardinals -2.5 (-115)