October 8th, 2010
The 3-1 New Orleans Saints may be tied for the best record in the NFC, but they haven’t looked much like the team that won the Super Bowl last season. The Saints often demolished their opponents while winning their first 13 games in 2009, but they were lucky to defeat the win-less Carolina Panthers last week. Perhaps the offense will get going Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, who are coming off a 31-point blowout loss to San Diego. NFL odds makers have listed the Saints as a 7-point favorite with the total set at 44.5 this week.
New Orleans led the NFL in both scoring (31.9) and total offense (403.8) last season, but they are averaging just 19.8 points and 344.0 yards this year.
Quarterback Drew Brees is putting up big numbers again this season. He completed 33 of 48 passes for 275 yards against Carolina last week, and he has the league’s fourth most passing yards with 1,131. However, these big numbers haven’t translated into a lot of points. Perhaps this will be the week New Orleans finally breaks out offensively.
It very well could be when you consider that Arizona is allowing 29.5 points and 388.0 yards per game.
I attribute New Orleans’ offensive struggles to its poor running game. The Saints were so tough to stop last season because of their offensive balance. As one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL, averaging just 73.2 yards per game, they haven’t been able to achieve that same balance this season. It certainly doesn’t help matters that Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are banged up.
Bush is expected to miss at least a few more weeks with a fracture fibula, and Thomas could miss a second straight game with a sprained ankle. If Thomas can’t go, it will be up to Ladell Betts and Christopher Ivory to get the job done. Whoever is running the football should find some success against an Arizona defense that is giving up 154.8 rushing yards per game.
Last season’s 45-14 win over Arizona was the second straight win in the series for the Saints. New Orleans has won 11 of the last 16 meetings. From the perspective of the point spread, New Orleans is 5-1 against the number in the last six meetings between these two teams.
Arizona is missing Kurt Warner more than ever right now. When Warner called it a career this off-season, it was supposed to be time for former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart to shine. Due to a poor preseason, he never even got a shot. That gave Derek Anderson the starting job.
Anderson has not taken advantage of his opportunity. He has thrown five interceptions and has the NFL’s worst quarterback rating (59.5). Coach Ken Whisenhunt had seen enough when Anderson was intercepted twice in the first half against San Diego last week. Whisenhunt made the decision to replace him with rookie Max Hall, who completed 8 of 14 passes for 82 yards. Hall was sacked six times, but he did not throw an interception.
With Whisenhunt desperate to jump start an offense averaging just 14.5 points, he is giving Hall the start Sunday.
It really doesn’t matter who is under center if the line doesn’t do a better job in pass protection. It also doesn’t help that both Steve Breaston and Early Doucet aren’t expected to play. This will allow the Saints to key on four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Without a capable signal caller to throw him the ball, Fitzgerald could end up with his worst season as a pro. He has caught just 14 passes for 208 yards and two scores thus far. Fitzgerald caught 97 passes for 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
While it doesn’t look good for Arizona this week, one can bet that the Cards will be motivated by last week’s embarrassing loss. Plus, New Orleans has been overvalued each of the last three weeks, and it has endured three against the spread defeats because of it. Perhaps, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that Arizona is 5-0 against the number in its last five games as a home underdog of 3.5-10.0 points.
Jimmy Boyd was a perfect 6-0 with his Week 4 NFL picks. Make sure you’re playing who he’s playing for another dominant week on the pro gridiron!
Read more New Orleans Saints news on BleacherReport.com
Read the original post