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

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Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) against the New Orleans Saints at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Saints 31-19. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Saints Defense vs Cardinals Offense

The New Orleans defense has been far more aggressive during the second half of this season, and has been a definite bright spot during this stretch of four losses over five games.

Statistically they are ranked only 24th total, 29th against the pass and the 27 points per game allowed rank 30th in the league. Despite the number of weak spots in the defense that need addressed this off season, the unit itself has shown vastly improved play.

Dannell Ellerbe, Nick Fairley, Craig Robertson and Cam Jordan might be playing the best football of their careers, and Sheldon Rankins’ weekly improvement shows why the Saints invested the 12th overall draft pick on him.

The news this week that cornerback Delvin Breaux will miss another game because of injury is yet another critical blow to a secondary that has been cursed with injury, no depth, miscommunication and poor play.

The Cardinals passing attack is more than capable of blowing a game wide open with their playmakers, but has underachieved for the majority of this year. Ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald has been the only consistent member of the receiving group, with 91 receptions for 892 yards and five scores.

Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) hurdles New Orleans Saints defensive back Delvin Breaux (40) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Cards released former first round pick Michael Floyd earlier this week due to continuing off field issues, leaving inconsistent, but dangerous deep threats John Brown and JJ Nelson as Palmer’s other primary downfield targets.

The Saints defensive strength clearly lies within their front seven, and they will certainly have an opportunity to make plays on an Arizona offensive line that has given up 38 sacks on the year. The ability to pressure the mistake-prone Palmer may give the New Orleans  thin, undermanned secondary a chance to convert some turnovers; an area that has been sorely lacking in this defense for years.

Arizona running back David Johnson is an explosive force to be reckoned with in the running game, passing game, or even kickoff returns, and is among the top 2 or 3 running backs in the league. Johnson’s 1830 total yards leads the NFL, and at times he IS the Arizona offense with 1,085 rushing yards and 69 receptions for 745 yards and 15 total touchdowns.

This will undoubtedly be the biggest test for an improved Saints front seven group that should get Robertson back after a one week injury absence, but will be missing Stephone Anthony with injury after Anthony had shown improved play last week against the Buccaneers.