NFL Divisional Round Playoff Prediction: Cardinals vs. Saints

Arizona Cardinals (10-6, 6-2 away) at New Orleans Saints (13-3, 6-2 home)
Kickoff: 4:30PM ET
Odds: Saints –7

The Saints have plenty to be concerned with entering this game, none bigger than the fact that they’ve stumbled into the playoffs by losing their last three regular season games. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have the momentum after beating the Packers last week and the more recent postseason experience after earning a trip to the Super Bowl last season.

That said, people tend to forget how good New Orleans was in the regular season. And now that they’re at full health, we’re going to see a different Saints team this Saturday then we did in the final three weeks of the season. Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis appears healthy, which will help NO stop Beanie Wells and Arizona’s running game. With Ellis in the lineup, the Saints are a different team and one that can force opponents to be one-dimensional. Kurt Warner is excellent at making reads and getting the ball out of his hand quickly, but he and the rest of the Cardinals’ offense will have a harder time scoring in the red zone than they’re used to. New Orleans has the second best red zone defense in the league and safety Darren Sharper has shined when the Saints have their backs against their own goal line.

Defensively, there’s not much Arizona will be able to do to stop Sean Payton’s offense. Drew Brees has played at a MVP-level all season and he has an array of weapons at his disposal in Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and tight end Jeremy Shockey. All four of those receivers work well in open space and Brees does an outstanding job at getting them the ball in a timely manner. Plus, if the Cardinals tackle as poorly as they did last week against Green Bay, then there’s a chance they’ll allow another 40-plus points on Saturday.

There are a lot of people hopping on the Cardinals’ bandwagon after they beat the Packers last week. Couple that with how bad the Saints looked in the final three weeks of the season and some are smelling upset.

Not me: Saints 34, Cardinals 20.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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