“Wild West Shootout”: Saints vs. Cardinals Preview and Prediction

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Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Alex Okafor (57) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Saints Offense vs Cardinals Defense

The 2016 Saints schedule has looked like a “Who’s Who” of the best defenses in the NFL all season. The New York Giants, Carolina Panthers (twice), Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, LA Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and now Arizona Cardinals are all among the leagues top echelon in multiple defensive rankings.

Arizona has perhaps the best cornerback in the game in Patrick Peterson, an elite playmaker with safety Tyrann Mathieu, and intimidating pass rushers in Chandler Jones (8 sacks), Markus Golden (7), and Calais Campbell.

They are currently ranked #1 in the league in total defense, and have not surrendered a single 300 yard passing performance — the only NFL team this year such to accomplish feat while allowing only 201 yards through the air on average.

The Cardinals are only 14th in scoring defense, and in losing four of their last six games have given up an average of almost 28 points per game. Peterson is likely to match up against either WR Michael Thomas or Brandin Cooks most often.

Thomas, who missed last week loss against Tampa, is likely to play, but his effectiveness with the foot injury is a bit of a question. Cooks was shut down in the Saints last game against Arizona, a 31-19 loss in the 2015 opener in which Cooks had 4 catches but only 49 yards.

Oct 23, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) watches play on the sidelines during the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 27-21. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona’s biggest weakness in the secondary has been cornerback Justin Bethel, who tends to allow big plays over the top.

New Orleans’ offensive line looks to bounce back after a bit of a regression against the Lions and Buccaneers. Left tackle Terron Armstead was officially put on injured reserve this week, meaning that Andrus Peat will again protect Brees’ blind side.

Mark Ingram or Tim Hightower need to have a big day on the ground in this one to provide balance against a Cardinals rush D that ranks 11th with 97 yards per game.

The Saints offense is in a horrific slump, with 6 turnovers, zero passing touchdowns, only ONE touchdown total, and 24 points combined in their last two games. Despite the slump, New Orleans still ranks first in total yards with 418 per game, first in passing offense (314 yards), and second in points scored with an average of over 27 per game.

Look for Payton and Co. to be extremely aggressive with their play calling in their opening drives, hoping to get the Arizona defense off balance early.