Gridiron Gab Week Five Preview – New Orleans at Arizona

2010 Season Records:

Cardinals: 2-2 (1st in NFC West, 3-way tie), Last Week: L @ Chargers, 41-10

Saints: 3-1 (1st in NFC South, tied), Last Week: W vs. Panthers, 16-14


Sun., Oct. 10th, 4:15 P.M. ET, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ

Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Cardinals:

Well, the Saints, dats who and the Cardinals had better listen because this could be the worst beating yet.  In a very young season, both of the Cards’ losses have been by at least a 30 point margin.  In fact, the Cardinals have a -60 point differential, scoring only 58 points but allowing 118 through 4 games.  In other words, the Cardinals’ defense is allowing 29.5 points/game while the offense is only scoring 14.5 points/game.  There’s no escaping the fact that those numbers are absolutely terrible, but maybe it’s not really all that bad.

Hey, Maybe these Guys ‘Aint so Bad:

The Cardinals lost to the Falcons and the Chargers.  Yes, they lost badly, but let’s consider the strength of those two teams.  Even before the season began, the Falcons were expected to contend with the Saints for the NFC South crown, which obviously they are as the Falcons beat the Saints at home no less and are currently tied for first.  The Chargers, despite their 2-2 record, were the easy favorite to win the AFC West before the Chiefs started up.  Although the Chiefs are the hot item right now, the Chargers will most likely still win the division with a top three offense, a capable defense, and they finally tightened up the special teams units.

So the Cardinals lost to one current and another probable first place team.  The Cards will probably lose to another one Sunday, but a 2-3 record for Arizona in the NFC West is by no means a death sentence.  Come what may, the Cards still have 5 more games (three of which are at home) against NFC West opponents (Seattle twice, San Francisco twice, and St. Louis once).  Despite the fact that a win over New Orleans may be out of their reach right now, there are things that the Cardinals can accomplish even in a loss, if that ends up being the case.

Run Baby, Run:

For the Cardinals, this game must be all about the ground.  Arizona must grind it out on offense and shut the run down on defense, which is entirely possible.  The Saints rank 30th in the NFL in rushing with a scant 73.3 yards/game.  It’s ironic that the Cardinals will send out the 30th ranked run defense in the NFL, allowing 154.3 yards/game.  Obviously, one of these rankings will improve and one will slide.

The Cards must make sure it’s their run defense that improves and the Saints run game is ripe for the picking.  New Orleans is without Reggie Bush (broken leg) and most likely Pierre Thomas (ankle).  In their stead are Chris Ivory and Ladell Betts.  Ivory, a rookie, has 80 yards on the first 19 carries of his career with no touchdowns.  Betts, of course, is no rookie and has resurrected his career through the Saints’ injury misfortunes.  Although Ivory has good size (6?0?, 220 lbs.) and decent quickness, he’s still just a rookie and already has two fumbles in his first 19 carries.  Betts, who the Saints signed, released, and then resigned in a little more than a month, is a grizzled veteran that still relies on power running to gain yards, but he’s not a big play threat.  The Cardinals should look to begin correcting their most pressing shortcoming this week, stopping the run.

Max, Good Luck Kiddo:

Offensively, the big question mark is how will recently announced starter Max Hall fair in his first NFL start, against New Orleans of all teams. Honestly, it shouldn’t be the issue of greatest concern, though it will grab the most headlines.  The Cardinals’ passing game should simply act as a counterweight to it’s rushing attack because the Cardinals don’t have a passing attack that can sustain scoring drives, make dynamic plays, and win games.

New Orleans is a prime target for the Cardinals to get their running game going.  The Saints’ rushing defense, which ranks 23rd in the NFL, has been relatively poor, allowing 138.3 yards/game.  Believe it or not, the Cardinals rushing game has been relatively strong.  Arizona ranks 19th in the NFL with 99 yards/game, falling 6 spots and taking a big 17.3 yards/game dip from last week against the Chargers, which brings us to Beanie Wells‘, meritorious, but poorly expressed comment.

I don’t agree with the back up running back’s decision to vent his frustration with the media.  If Wells had a complaint, the head coach is the first person that should hear about it.  Having said that, Wells is absolutely right.  Coming back from his torn meniscus injury, Beanie has been running like a banshee, averaging 4.9 yards/carry, much of those yards coming after contact.  Tim Hightower, the starting running back, has been having a great season as well, compiling 233 yards on only 42 carries (5.5 yard average) with 2 touchdowns.  In other words, the Cardinals top two running backs are averaging 5.5 and 4.9 yards per carry, which combined is a little better than a first down every 2 touches (10.4 yards every 2 carries).  There can be no debate that the running game is far and away the most productive aspect of the Cardinals unproductive offense so far.  Arizona must rely on the running game to set the tone for the offense.  With a fearsome combination of Hightower and Wells grabbing chunks of yardage, the passing game will be a much easier mountain to climb no matter who is throwing the ball.

There’s Such a Thing as a Moral Victory:

There’s no shame in losing to the New Orleans Saints, which is not to say that the Cardinals have no shot, but realistically they face long odds.  Despite missing some weapons, Drew Brees is still calling the shots and he’s got plenty of voodoo magic left.  In addition, the Saints have big, speedy, athletic receivers in Colston, Henderson, and Meachem.  Finally, the Saints have playmaking tight ends (Shockey and Thomas), which has spelled disaster for the Cardinals pass coverage (think Zach Miller and Antonio Gates over the past two games).

The Saints, however, have shown a measure of weakness over the past few weeks.  The Saints blew a win against the Falcons by missing a game-winning field goal against a division rival and almost lost to the now 0-4 Carolina Panthers.  We’ve already established that the Saints rushing attack and run defense are lacking.  That leaves Drew Brees and the high powered Saints passing game, which honestly is enough to beat the Cardinals considering the way their pass coverage has looked recently.  Despite the Cards’ long odds, the Saints look as beatable as they ever will to Arizona considering that the Saints’ offense isn’t nearly up to top form.  New Orleans is averaging only 19.8 points per game, which is nothing to sneeze at, but is no where near the production the Saints’ expected of themselves.

Win or lose, the Cardinals can find value in Sunday’s game.  If the Cards run the ball effectively and stop the Saints rushing attack, it would give them something to build on going into the bye week.  In addition, if Max Hall can manage the game and play solidly without making unnecessary mistakes, it would form the template for the Cardinals’ future success: stop the run, run the ball effectively, manage the game with smart decisions by the quarterback.  It may not win Arizona a Super Bowl or even a playoff game, but it may win them the weak NFC West.

Cardinals’ Week 5 Depth Chart / Injury Report

Legend: * = probable, ^ = questionable, ` = doubtful, FP = full practice, LP = limited practice, DNP = did not practice


WR1 – Larry Fitzgerald, Max Komar, Onrea Jones

LT – Levi Brown, Jeremy Bridges

LG – *Alan Faneca [back], Rex Hadnot

C – Lyle Sendlein, Ben Claxton, Rex Hadnot

RG – Deuce Lutui, Rex Hadnot

RT – Brandon Keith, Jeremy Bridges

TE – Ben Patrick, Stephen Spach, Jim Dray

WR2 – Stephen Williams, Andre Roberts

QB – Max Hall, Derek Anderson, John Skelton

RB – T. Hightower, Beanie Wells, Jason Wright, L. Stephens-Howling

FB – Reagan Maui’a

Defense: 3-4 Base

DE – Calais Campbell, *Kenny Iwebema [knee]

NT – Bryan Robinson, Gabe Watson, Dan Williams

DT – Darnell Dockett, Alan Branch

ROLB – Joey Porter

RILB – *Paris Lenon [tail bone], Reggie Walker

LILB – Daryl Washington, Reggie Walker

LOLB – Clark Haggans, Will Davis

RCB – Greg Toler, Trumaine McBride, A.J. Jefferson

LCB – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Michael Adams, Brandon McDonald

SS – Adrian Wilson, ^Matt Ware [ankle], Hamza Abdullah

FS – Kerry Rhodes, Rashad Johnson

Saints’ Week 5 Depth Chart /  Injury Report


WR1 – Marques Colston, Lance Moore

LT – Jermon Bushrod, Charles Brown

LG – Carl Nicks

C – Jonathan Goodwin, Matt Tennant

RG – Jahri Evans

RT – Jonathan Stinchcomb, Zach Steif

TE – Jeremy Shockey, David Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Tory Humphrey

WR2 – Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Courtney Roby

QB – Drew Brees, Chase Daniel

RB – `Pierre Thomas [ankle], Chris Ivory, Ladell Betts

FB – Heath Evans

Defense: 4-3 Base

LDE – Alex Brown, Jeff Charleston, Jimmy Wilkerson

LDT – Sedrick Ellis, Anthony Hargrove

RDT – Remy Ayodele

RDE – Will Smith, Junior Galette

WSLB – Jo-Lon Dunbar

MLB – Jonathan Vilma, Marvin Mitchell, Anthony Waters

SSLB – Scott Shanle, Stanley Arnoux

LCB – Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson, Leigh Torrence

SS – Roman Harper, ^Pierson Prioleau [bruised lung]

FS – Malcom Jenkins, *Usama Young [quadriceps]

RCB – Randall Gay

AccuScore Projections:

Saints 74% favorite to Arizona 24% underdog

Average Scores: Cardinals – 20.0, Saints – 29.5

Head to Head Since 2001: Cardinals have a 1-2 record.

The home team has won the last three games.

  • Jan. 16, 2010 – ARI 14 @ NO 45, Divisional Playoff game
  • Dec. 16, 2007 – ARI 24 @ NO 31
  • Oct. 3, 2004 – NO 14 @ ARI 34

Saints’ Trends:

  • When playing in October are 8-2.
  • When playing on grass are 7-3 in last 10 games played.
  • After out gaining opponent are 10-0 in last 10 games played.
  • When playing outside the division are 9-1 in last 10 games played.

Cardinals’ Trends:

  • When playing in October are 6-4.
  • When playing on grass are 6-4 in last 10 games played.
  • After being out gained are 8-2 in last 10 games played.
  • When playing outside the division are 5-5 in last 10 games played.
  • Have not lost back to back games since 2008 season.

Cardinals vs. Saints 2010 Rankings:


Per Game Averages

Total Yards

NO – 344.0

ARI – 249.0

Yards Passing

NO (5th) – 270.8

ARI (30th) – 150.0

Yards Rushing

NO (30th)  – 73.3

ARI (18th) – 99.0


Per Game Averages

Yards Allowed

NO – 334.5

ARI – 388.0

Pass Yards Allowed

NO (11th) – 196.3

ARI (23rd) – 233.3

Rush Yards Allowed

NOR (26th) – 138.3

ARI (30th) – 154.8

Saints’ 2010 Season Outlook:

Despite the Saints’ failure to get their offense firing on all cylinders, there’s little doubt that this team is headed for a deep post-season run.  New Orleans is dealing with a few tough injuries including Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Tracy Porter, and Darren Sharper.  Those are all guys that were a big part of the Saints’ Super Bowl run last year.  This team knows how to win and they’ll do a whole bunch of it this year again.  Even if they somehow don’t stave off the Falcons for the NFC South crown, they’ll most likely grab the Wild Card with at least 12 wins.

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