Do the Cardinals even need Boldin?

Listen, how about you sit this one out, Q?

According to Adam Schefter via his Twitter page, the Cardinals don’t expect wideout Anquan Boldin (ankle/knee) to play against the Saints on Saturday.

As crazy as it sounds, Arizona might be better off.

The mere thought that the Cardinals are better without Boldin in the lineup sounds ridiculous. He’s an underrated playmaker that makes teams pay for double-teaming Larry Fitzgerald. He has the size and speed to win one-on-one matchups with a defender of any size and he’s a load to bring down in open space. Of course the Cardinals are better with him.

That said, over the last two seasons the Cards are 6-1 when Boldin didn’t play. And as the Wall Street Journal points out, they’ve averaged 33.9 points per game without him in the lineup, compared to the 24.5 PPG and 17-13 record with him. They also racked up 41 points in the one regular season game (vs. the Bears) that he missed this season and 51 points last week against the Packers, so the numbers would indicate that they’re better off without him.

But this is one of those times when numbers can be misleading. Arizona has survived without Boldin because they have an abundance of depth at the wideout position. Steve Breaston has shown the ability to be a playmaker when he starts and Early Doucet showed last week that he could be a star in the making. Fitzgerald aids both receivers by commanding double-teams, and having a quarterback in Kurt Warner that can deliver the ball in a timely manner so his wideouts can make the catch in stride and pick up yards after the catch is critical as well.

Can the Cardinals win without Boldin? Absolutely – and they’ve proven it. But are they better? That’s debatable. The numbers would suggest that they are, but teams are always better when they have their full complement of weapons, especially during the postseason.

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NFL Playoffs Fan Battle: Cardinals vs. Saints Preview

To get you ready for the Cardinals-Saints’ Divisional Round tilt in the “Big Easy” this Saturday, here’s a preview of the game via a mock dialogue between an Arizona and a New Orleans fan.

Saint Fan: I bet Sean Payton couldn’t sleep after watching the Packers rip apart the Cardinals’ defense last Sunday! Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jermichael Finley lit you guys up and we have similar weapons in Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem. I can’t wait to see what that group will do against Arizona’s brutal secondary this Saturday!

Cardinal Fan: Last week was an anomaly – the Cards’ defense won’t play that bad two weeks in a row. Ken Whisenhunt and his staff have already dissected what went wrong and are working to correct the problem. Besides, tackling was the main issue last week, which is correctable.

Saint Fan: Payton just won coach of the year and is one of the brightest offensive minds in football. If Mike McCarthy figured out how to rack up 40-plus points on Arizona, then Payton might double that.

Cardinal Fan: This isn’t the regular season – it’s the playoffs.

Saint Fan: Wow, you’re just figuring this out now?

Cardinal Fan: Hear me out; Whisenhunt is 4-1 in the postseason as the Cardinals’ head coach. He has already been to the Super Bowl and thus knows what it takes to get there. There’s no doubt Payton is a great coach, but there’s a lot more at stake for him this weekend with the Saints being the No. 1 seed and expected to reach the Super Bowl after running through the competition for most of the season.

Saint Fan: Yeah, but let’s give defensive coordinator Gregg Williams his due. His aggressive style has changed how the Saints run their defense and he deserves just as much credit for our team’s success this year as Payton does.

Cardinal Fan: Oh, you mean the same Gregg Williams-led defense that can’t stop the run? Once we establish the ground game with Beanie Wells, Kurt Warner is going to pick your fading defense apart with his precision passing. Plus, once we get inside the red zone we’re nearly unstoppable. We’ve scored touchdowns on 70.4 percent of our trips inside our opponents’ 20-yard line, which is the best in the league.

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Boldin misses practice, but optimistic he’ll play

According to the Arizona Cardinals’ official website, wideout Anquan Boldin was held out of practice on Tuesday but is optimistic that he will play against the Saints on Saturday.

The Cardinals got through an admittedly sluggish first day back on the practice field, no surprise since it’s been such a short time since they last played. Because it’s Tuesday, the Cards aren’t required to discuss injuries or file and injury report, leaving some things in the dark until tomorrow’s initial official injury update. But Anquan Boldin did say he felt “a lot better,” reported that he was able to move around more (although he didn’t practice) and he is “definitely” optimistic he will have a chance to play Saturday against the Saints.

With the way Early Doucet played against the Packers, it didn’t matter that Boldin wasn’t on the field last Sunday. But at this time of year, teams need all of their weapons and Boldin is a game-changer when healthy.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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