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Why Arizona will beat the Saints (good stuff here)

January 13, 2010 04:50PM
From Walter Football:

Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Line: Saints by 7. Total: 57.5.
Walt's Projected Line: Saints -4.5.
Saturday, 4:30 ET

The Game. Edge: Cardinals.

NFL Week 18 Recap: If you include sides and totals, I went 6-2. Not bad. Unfortunately, that didn't matter because I lost my January NFL Pick of the Month, as the choking Bengals lost to the Jets. From Carson Palmer's dozen overthrows, to Marvin Lewis' drunken challenges, to Chad Ochocinco's dropped touchdown, to Shayne Graham's two missed chip-shot field goals, the game was very frustrating to watch. And then came the hate mail.

Vegas Recap: There was only one lopsided game last week, and that was the Packers-Cardinals thriller. Everyone and their evil stepmother bet on Green Bay because of how the Packers trashed Arizona the week before. As the Cardinals won in overtime, Vegas just smiled and collected its money.

NEW ORLEANS OFFENSE: Everyone is assuming this is going to be a shootout. As Chris Berman said on the real NFL Primetime on Sunday night (thank God it's back - even if temporarily), "Get your abacuses ready." And just look at the total - it's freaking 57.5!

I don't think this is going to be a shootout. In fact, I think the Saints will struggle to put points on the board. Now, before you call the mental hospital and ask them to lock me in a padded room, hear me out.

The Saints didn't play last week because of their playoff bye. The week before, Drew Brees sat out because he wanted to preserve the single-season completion percentage record. That's two weeks that New Orleans' starting offense hasn't played together.

It gets worse - in the two contests before that, the Saints scored only 17 points against the Cowboys and a terrible Buccaneers defense. So, right before they took their two-week hiatus, the Saints were struggling to put up points on the scoreboard? Yeah, that's not good.

Arizona's defense has its problems, but something it does well is apply pressure on the quarterback. The Cardinals had 43 sacks in the regular season and got to Aaron Rodgers five times. We saw Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod struggle late in the year, and if he continues to allow defenders to run by him, Brees will have major problems moving the chains consistently.

ARIZONA OFFENSE: Unlike the Cardinals, I don't think the Saints will be able to put consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. New Orleans lost defensive end Charles Grant, who was second on the team with 5.5 sacks. With only one solid pass-rusher (Will Smith), the Saints will have to blitz Kurt Warner if they want to get to him. And blitzing Warner is just asking for trouble.

Chris Wells will keep New Orleans' defense honest. The Saints excelled at stopping the run early in the year, but really struggled against it after Sedrick Ellis suffered an injury in that infamous Miami game. New Orleans has allowed at least 119 rushing yards to nine of its previous 11 opponents.

Ellis is a dominant tackle and the Saints' most important defensive player, so not having him in the lineup was huge. He's back, but I'm not convinced he's 100 percent. Ellis tried to return multiple times toward the end of the year, but had problems with his knee. He just wasn't effective at all.

If Wells is able to run wild, I really don't see how New Orleans will contain Arizona's offense. Warner and his receivers are just too good for the Saints to match up against even without worrying about a dangerous rushing attack.

RECAP: The Saints dug their own grave when they sat Brees in Week 17. They would have been better off trying to establish some sort of momentum.

The following teams rested their starters in Week 17 before a playoff game. This chart, which goes back to 2002, when the divisions re-aligned, shows how each squad performed in its initial postseason contest. The asterisks denote teams that had first-round byes, like the Saints.

2009: Saints* - ???
2008: Titans* - Loss SU (straight up), Loss ATS (against the spread)
2008: Colts - Loss SU, Loss ATS
2007: Colts* - Loss SU, Loss ATS
2007: Jaguars - Win SU, Loss ATS
2007: Steelers - Loss SU, Win ATS
2007: Buccaneers - Loss SU, Loss ATS
2006: Eagles - Win SU, Loss ATS
2006: Saints* - Win SU, Loss ATS
2005: Colts* - Loss SU, Loss ATS
2004: Steelers* - Win SU, Loss ATS
2004: Chargers - Loss SU, Loss ATS
2004: Eagles* - Win SU, Win ATS
2002: 49ers - Win SU, Loss ATS

In short, teams resting their starters in Week 17 are 6-7 straight up and 2-11 against the spread in their first playoff game (as long as they're not playing the same team as in Week 17). You may look at that and say, "Well 7-7 straight up isn't so bad!" Wrong. Every single team on that list, save for one, was a favorite. Going 7-7 when you're expected to win isn't exactly a good thing.

The Saints were already struggling before they rested their starters. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are red-hot. They have extensive playoff experience, and Warner, who is secretly one of the best postseason performers in NFL history, will not be rattled in the Superdome.

Arizona is 6-1 against the spread as underdogs this year. I say that improves to 7-1. Not only will the Cardinals cover; I think they win outright.

The Psychology. Edge: Cardinals.
The Cardinals are red-hot. The Saints are ice-cold after resting their starters and struggling down the stretch.

The Vegas. Edge: Saints.
Seems like a lot of points, doesn't it? It's early, but the public is leaning toward Arizona.
Percentage of money on Arizona: 67% (30,000 bets)

The Trends. Edge: Cardinals.
Worst Bye: Playoff teams coming off byes are 7-17 ATS since 2003 (4-12 since 2005).
Cardinals are 6-1 ATS as underdogs in 2009.
Saints are 27-42 ATS at home since 2001 (10-6 since 2008).
Saints are 20-31 ATS as a home favorite since 2001.
Saints are 8-21 ATS in December home games since 2000.
Opening Line: Saints -7.
Opening Total: 57.
Weather: Dome.

Week 19 NFL Pick: Cardinals 31, Saints 17

  Why Arizona will beat the Saints (good stuff here)

Ram Mas1163January 13, 2010 04:50PM

  As you may know...

JamesJM185January 13, 2010 04:57PM

  Re: Yeah, I think Arizona wins this game also

BigGame81191January 13, 2010 04:57PM


JamesJM212January 13, 2010 05:04PM

  Re: Interesting...

BigGame81162January 13, 2010 05:09PM

  I agree... The Jets and Cowboys...

JamesJM180January 13, 2010 05:33PM