The Saints are hoping to return to postseason glory after a 2014 campaign that saw them miss the playoffs and disappoint fans. The NFL odds however indicate the Cardinals will prevail.
Saints a Different Team in 2015
May was a busy month for the Saints front office as they stunned fans around the country when they sent All-Pro Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks in exchange for another All-Pro in Max Unger and the Seahawks' 31st pick in the draft which turned out to be inside linebacker and Clemson product Stephone Anthony. After the deal was consummated the Seahawks went from 6-1 NFL Super Bowl odds to 5-1 while the Saints jumped from 25-1 to 30-1 at the Westgate in Las Vegas, NFL game-by-game odds also shifted. A few days later they sent wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Dolphins for veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick which became FSU cornerback P.J. Williams who has subsequently wound up on the injured reserve with a torn hamstring.
At first blush it looks like the Saints are considerably weaker after dealing one of the most feared offensive weapons in the game but the straw that stirs the drink in New Orleans happens to be quarterback Drew Brees and not Jimmy Graham. Last season Brees was rendered impotent on more than one occasion because he simply did not have the pass protection to locate a target and unload. It was a glaring weakness that needed an immediate fix because without time to launch it didn't matter how many Pro Bowl weapons were on the field and that included the illustrious Jimmy Graham.
In addition, the Saints were able to convert Seattle's first-round pick that they landed in the Graham trade with inside linebacker Stephone Anthony. Reports out of the Bayou claim that Anthony has played so well in the preseason that he is ranked in the top ten of all rookies in this season's draft and could very well become the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Watch for Stephone Anthony to make an immediate impact on the linebacking corps and don't underestimate the impact of Max Unger anchoring the offensive line giving Brees time to do what he does best.
Saints or Cardinals in our NFL Picks?
Veteran Carson Palmer is healthy and under center again for the Cardinals as he will have the explosive duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Malcolm Floyd as his primary targets. Stretching the field could be exactly what leads the Cardinals to victory in this one but I am betting against it with my week 1 NFL pick here. You see the average NFL fan understands that one half of the components that made New Orleans so tough to contain on the offensive side of the ball is now plying his trade in Seattle. This will undoubtedly cause public perception to frown on the New Orleans and give Arizona a boost by default.
However, if you look at what the Saints bring into this game you will find that they have two very capable tight ends in Ben Watson and Josh Hill. Watson is a veteran presence who can be trusted when counted upon while 25-year-old Josh Hill scored on 5 of his 14 receptions last season and averaged 12.6 yards per catch. Neither is Jimmy Graham but when you factor in a much more reliable offensive line anchored by Max Unger with receivers Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston on the wings along with power back Mark Ingram we could see the Drew Brees of old put on a show despite an Arizona secondary that is formidable to be sure.
Free NFL Pick: New Orleans Saints +3 (-125) at Bookmaker