The Arizona Cardinals look to make the team’s second straight NFC Conference Championship game as they travel to New Orleans and face the Saints this weekend. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., and the game can be seen nationally on FOX.
X-Factor: Saints secondary. Cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer are finally fully healthy, big news for New Orleans. Even if Anquan Boldin is on the bench again (a possibility), the Cardinals still have Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and…Early Doucet? New Orleans cannot afford to be less than 100 percent on defense, especially in the secondary.
New Orleans will win…
because they’ve had plenty of time to rest and prepare for this football game. A lot of NFL writers/”experts” have given Saints head coach Sean Payton a hard time for giving New Orleans some much needed time off and then beginning “training camp practices” this past weekend. If any team needed a mental and physical rest, it’s the New Orleans Saints, a team that hasn’t won a football game in roughly one month. The New Orleans offense was the most fun offense to watch for most of the 2009 NFL regular season and, as Drew Brees said, the team is having fun once more.
Many fans and journalists believe that Brees was the NFL MVP, not Peyton Manning. Brees was phenomenal during the 2009 NFL regular season, throwing for 4,388 yards, 34 touchdowns and a 109.6 rating. Brees completed over 70 percent of his passes during the season. This Saturday, Brees and his offense will be facing a pass defense that was lit up by Aaron Rodgers, especially during the second half of Sunday’s game. Rodgers threw for over 400 yards in Arizona. Don’t doubt that Brees can’t match that.
Offensively, the Saints played four not great games. One was against the New York Jets, the best defense in the NFL. No starters played in the last regular season game. Granted, the other games were weeks 15 and 16. A week off and getting back to basics should get the Saints back to the offense we saw in the other twelve regular season games.
Arizona will win…
because it’s the 2009 NFL playoffs all over again. Quarterback Kurt Warner is playing like an MVP and Larry Fitzgerald is the greatest wide receiver of all time. The Cardinals also have a much better ground game than many realize. Arizona ran for 156 yards against Green Bay (6.8 yards a carry). The Cards running game could be the difference this weekend, especially if it’s a one-score game last in the fourth quarter.
Neither the Cardinals nor Saints have a great defense. Statistically speaking, the Cardinals were slightly better than New Orleans in points allowed, yards allowed and sacks during the regular season. The Cards sacked Aaron Rodgers five times last week. Defensive end Bertrand Berry and company must bring their “A game” yet again against New Orleans as Drew Brees was only sacked 20 times during the 2009 NFL regular season.
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie may be the most underrated corner in the NFL playoffs. Rodgers-Cromartie was banged up at the end of the regular season but he seemed fine against the Packers, picking Aaron Rodgers off once. The world finally stopped ignoring Larry Fitzgerald last January. Rodgers-Cromartie could be the defensive breakout player of the 2010 NFL playoffs with a big game against the Saints.
Prediction: I, along with most of you reading (most likely), will be stunned if this game isn’t a shoot-out. I don’t see 90 total points being put on the board a la Packers-Cardinals. I expect the Saints to jump out to an early lead and take a two score lead into the fourth quarter. Kurt Warner will rally Arizona but, sadly for Cardinals fans, run out of time at the end. Hopefully this game is as fun on the field as it looks on paper.
New Orleans 37
For more: Follow NYGExaminer on Twitter