Week 1 NFL Picks: Saints' History vs NFC West Makes Cardinals the Bet

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, July 16, 2015 5:49 PM GMT

Thursday, Jul. 16, 2015 5:49 PM GMT

The last time the University of Phoenix Stadium hosted a game that mattered, it produced a Super Bowl for the ages. Not sure we will get that excitement Week 1 when the Saints visit the Cardinals. Arizona is -2.5 with a total of 47 at BetOnline.

Cardinals Must Keep Palmer On Field
I'm not a fan of the Cardinals in any way, but I do feel sorry for the franchise a bit as it had a legitimate chance to become the first team to host a Super Bowl and play in it last season had starting quarterback Carson Palmer not suffered a season-ending injury in a Week 10 win over St. Louis. The Cardinals won that game behind backup Drew Stanton to improve to an NFL-best 8-1. The team won all seven of Palmer's starts in 2014. Stanton is a decent enough backup quarterback and the Cardinals were 3-2 in the next five games. Alas, then Stanton suffered season-ending injury in a Week 15 game against .... who else, the Rams. Arizona would lose its final two regular-season games behind third-stringer Ryan Lindley to cough up not only the potential No. 1 overall seed in the NFC but also the NFC West title to  Seattle.

Predictably, with Lindley under center in the wild-card game at Carolina, the Cardinals were totally inept on offense in a 27-16 loss to a team that won its division with a 7-8-1 record (whether Carolina should  have been able to host a home game is a story for another day). Arizona turned it over three times in that game and had 78 total yards, the fewest ever in an NFL playoff game. The Cards had all of 12 yards in the second half. Lindley was ghastly, going 16-for-28 for 82 yards with a touchdown and two picks. He's no longer on the team.

So, yeah, it's pretty important that Palmer stays healthy this season. He hasn't been the most durable guy in his career but did play all 16 games in 2013  with Arizona. Stanton remains his backup.

The Cardinals defense gave up a lot of  yards last season but was fifth in points allowed at 18.7 per game. The team lost highly-regarded defensive coordinator Todd Bowles as he took the Jets' head coaching job. The scheme should stay the same as Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians promoted outside linebackers coach James Bettcher to replace Bowles, who blitzed more than any DC. Arizona had a franchise-record 47 sacks in 2014, third in the NFL.

The team didn't make any huge moves this offseason. It said goodbye to cornerback Antonio Cromartie and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett but beefed up the offensive line with center A.Q Shipley and guard Mike Iupati.

Arizona has a wins total of 8.5 this season, with the 'over' a -130 favorite.

 

Saints Have Bit Of Makeover
The Saints were a big disappointment at 7-9 last season, their first losing campaign under Coach Sean Payton -- not counting the 2012 season when he was suspended the year for "Bountygate" -- since 2007. Yet the team still was in the division race as late as Week 16. However, a 30-14 home loss to Atlanta ended those chances. Remember when the Saints never used to lose at the Superdome? They  lost their final five games there in 2014, three by at least 16 points.

New Orleans was still potent on offense, ranking first in the NFL in yards per game and ninth in points (25.1). But it was an inconsistent unit had had a lot of turnovers. Drew Brees was typically good, completing 69.5 percent of his passes for 4,952 yards (tied for first in NFL; record-tying fifth passing yardage title) and 33 touchdowns but also 17 picks. There were a few games where it looked like perhaps Brees' best days were behind him. As has often been the case in New Orleans, the defense was not good. It ranked 31st in total defense and 28th in scoring (26.5 ppg).

So whether it was last season's disappointment, salary-cap reasons or both, the Saints were very active this offseason. They shockingly traded Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, Brees' favorite target, to Seattle for center Max Unger and a 2015 first-round NFL pick. The club also traded rising star receiver Kenny Stills to Miami for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick. I do love the signing of free-agent running back C.J. Spiller from Buffalo and believe New Orleans runs a bit more this season with Mark Ingram and Spiller, as well as Unger improving the line.

The Saints have a 2015 wins total of 8.5, with the 'over' a -135 favorite.

 

Last Meeting
New Orleans beat the visiting Cardinals 31-7 in Week 3 of the 2013 season. Brees threw for 342 yards and three scores (two to Graham) and even had a rare rushing touchdown. Palmer was awful that game, completing 18-for-35 for 187 yards and two picks. The Saints have won three of the past four meetings dating to 2007.

NFL Free Picks: The Saints have covered just one of their past nine on NFL odds at NFC West foes (lost seven in a row SU). Assuming Palmer doesn't go down during training camp, take the Cardinals and the 'under.'

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