Why the Saints Will Snap Their 2 Game Losing Streak
4:05 pm ET
University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)
The Saints (5-8) travel to Glendale, AZ to take on the (5-7-1) Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Both teams have had a more than disappointing season and are officially playing for pride, barring a complete miracle. Although both teams have struggled this season, their rosters would reflect a different image. Look for seasoned veterans Carson Palmer and Drew Brees to keep their young teams locked in and put on a show in week 15 as both head coaches try to escape the season without a losing record. With both depth charts capable of producing more than just hope for their city, Sunday’s matchup should be an indicator of who truly wants to be in their locker room come the beginning of 2017.
Why Saints Should Win
Cardinals’ Secondary vs. Brees
The Cardinals came into the season featuring what was thought of as one of the best defensive units in the league but throughout the 2016 season, they have proven that is not the case. Drew Brees has struggled to produce any sort of offense the last two weeks but will have the opportunity to redeem himself against an injured/struggling secondary. Tyrann Mathieu has been sorely missed at his safety position and Tony Jefferson has been very underwhelming after resigning as a restricted free agent this offseason. Patrick Peterson has held the secondary together as best as he can but he will be forced to blanket Brandin Cooks all game. With D.J. Swearinger most likely filling Mathieu’s position, Brees will have excellent matchup’s in the seam and not have to worry about Tyrann’s ability to blitz as a pass rusher.
Arizona’s One-Dimensional Offense
After a disappointing postseason performance by Carson Palmer, the hopes of Cardinals’ fans everywhere would be a strong bounce back season; unfortunately, they got the opposite and Arizona may just be watching the regression of Carson Palmer’s career. Arizona’s offense features one of the best running backs in the league, David Johnson, but he has not been enough to revive Palmer’s throwing ability. It is not all Palmer’s fault, as his receivers have dropped catchable balls in some of the biggest moments of the season (18 total). The Saints have struggled against the run this season but with Arizona being one-dimensional for much of the season, look for defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to dial up blitzes and get in the backfield.
Matchups to Watch
Brandin Cooks vs. Patrick Peterson
Brandin Cooks has made it known that if the Saints hope to win, he demands the ball in his hands; he followed his comments up by dropping a potential game winning touchdown a week ago. Cooks is a young competitor and will look to bounce back after a disappointing two weeks for New Orleans. He faces up one of the premiere corners in the league and will have to use his speed, as well as creative play calling, to get behind the Cardinals’ safeties. Cooks’ big play ability must be displayed on the field this week if the Saints’ hope to post another tally in the win column.
Chandler Jones vs. Saints’ offensive line
Chandler Jones was a part of a blockbuster deal that sent Jonathan Cooper (since then cut and picked up by Cleveland) to the Patriots. He has lived up to the trade, producing 8 sacks this season, and will have his hands full chasing down shifty Drew Brees. The Saints’ offensive line has held up for the most part this season but struggled to defend the Buccaneers’ four man rush a week ago. If Brees fails to gain confidence in the pocket on the road, it may be a third straight week that the Saints’ struggle to find the end zone.
Saints’ RBs vs. ¾ Defense
The Saints have excelled when demonstrating a two-dimensional offense, featuring Tim Hightower and Mark Ingram, but have struggled without a pulsating rushing attack. The Cardinals feature a typical ¾ defense and thrive when playing their linebackers/safeties in the box. New Orleans must pound the ball up the middle and force the Cardinals to guess on Sean Payton’s play calling. With three weeks left both running backs may be running for their future in the organization and will be counted on to fulfill their duty, regardless of offensive line play. Look for Sean Payton to have Travaris Cadet in passing situations as well, as he tries to establish a screen game plan against the Cardinal’s blitz packages.
Saint’s Goals for Rest of Season
Develop Young Guys
With the Saints basically eliminated from playoff contention, Sean Payton and the rest of the coaching staff must start evaluating the young talent on the roster. While still not having much cap room to work with, New Orleans must do some serious recon for their hopeful turn around next season. Drew Brees only has a couple years left and New Orleans must put emphasis on developing chemistry between their quarterback and young guys at the receiver position. Players such as Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas must work with their quarterback in hopes of reviving what was once a powerhouse offense.
Mental errors have hindered what could have been for New Orleans this season. From blocked field goals to stupid penalties, the Saints have found a way to lose games that even the Cleveland Browns wouldn’t think possible. It is no secret that the Saints have lost key leadership roles in the locker room and it is time to find who might step up. It is week 15 in the NFL and the Saints have yet to put more than four consecutive quarter together as a team. The season has been an uphill climb week in and week out but New Orleans must find something to build off of for next year.
New Orleans has struggled to keep guys healthy by all season, especially on defense, and they cannot afford to lose anymore personnel on their sidelines. One reason the Saints have not been able to produce consistency this season is their lineup has been a revolving door. With only three weeks to go, and the need for a Christmas miracle to play in January, Payton must keep his players healthy and not allow for pointless injuries this late in the season. Expect the Saints’ organization to rotate at the majority of positions and try to develop some sort of chemistry between guys these last three weeks.