NFL Betting Preview Week One: New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals

New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, September 13, 2015, 4:05 pm Eastern, TV: Fox, NFL Sunday Ticket
University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Arizona
Opening Line: Arizona -2 1/2
Current Line: Arizona -2 1/2
Opening Total: 47
Current Total: 48 1/2
Opening Money Line: Cardinals -140 / Saints +120
Current Money Line: Cardinals -135 / Saints +115

The Saints and Cardinals open the season in Arizona in a battle of potential playoff contenders.
The Saints and Cardinals open the season in Arizona in a battle of potential playoff contenders.

The Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints open the 2015 season against each other Sunday in Glendale, Arizona. Both teams are expected to contend for the playoffs this season. The two teams have played each other 28 times with each team winning 14 times. The Saints have won three of the last four games in the series including 31-7 in the last game in 2013 in New Orleans.

Arizona is coached by Bruce Arians. The Cardinals went 11-5 last year in the regular season and were a game behind the 12-4 Seattle Seahawks in the NFC North. They would make the playoffs, but they were ravaged by injuries and lost on the road to the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers in the wild card playoffs. The Panthers were actually favored in that game despite being only the second team ever to win a division with a losing record. Carolina won that game 27-16. The Cardinals went 2-2 in the pre-season this year.

New Orleans went 7-9 last year and finished a half game behind the 7-8-1 Panthers in the NFC South. The Saints are coached by Sean Payton. New Orleans went 0-4 in the pre-season this year.

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The Saints led the NFL in total offense last year at 411 yards per game, including 298 passing and 114 rushing yards. New Orleans was #3 in passing. The Saints were #9 in scoring at 25 points per game. If you are wondering why the Saints did not score more points, just look at the -13 turnover differential. The Saints had 30 giveaways. Only the Raiders had a worse turnover differential at -15. The Saints were terrible on defense last year, allowing 384 yards per game including 251 passing and 133 rushing yards. New Orleans allowed 26.5 points per game. The Saints were #25 or worse in all four categories.

Quarterback Drew Brees will be a Hall of Famer when his career ends. Last year, he threw for 4,952 yards with 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, along with 68 rushing yards and a touchdown. He is 36 though and he only has a few years left in a brilliant career. Luke McCown is the back-up.

Running back Mark Ingram had 226 carries with 964 yards and 9 touchdowns, along with 29 catches for 145 yards. Khiry Robinson had 76 carries for 362 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 8 catches for 63 yards. Robinson is probable for undisclosed reasons The Saints also signed C.J. Spiller from the Buffalo Bills.He is doubtful with a knee injury. Spiller missed 7 games last year with a broken collarbone. He had 78 carries for 300 yards and also had 19 catches for 125 yards with a touchdown.

Brees lost two of his top targets from a year ago. New Orleans traded tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks for center Max Unger. Graham had 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. The Saints also traded receiver Kenny Stills to the Miami Dolphins for linebacker Danell Ellerbe and a third round pick. Stills had 63 catches for 931 yards and 3 touchdowns last year.

Marques Colston had 59 catches for 59 catches for 902 yards and 5 touchdowns. Still the go-to receiver will likely be second year receiver Brandin Cooks. He had 53 catches for 550 yards and 3 touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown before a broken wrist ended his season in mid-November. Tight end Josh Hill will likely replace Graham. Hill had 14 catches for 145 yards and 5 touchdowns last year. Benjamin Watson, also a tight end had 20 catches for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. Nick Toon, Joe Morgan, Seantavius Jones and Brandon Coleman will also get plenty of targets.

Eight defensive players are listed on the injury report including six that are doubtful or out. That could be an issue for a team that struggled on defense last year.

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Arizona averaged 320 yards per game on offense last year, including 238 passing and 82 rushing yards. The Cardinals were #14 in passing, but #31 in rushing and #24 in total offense. Arizona was #24 in scoring at 19.4 points per game. Arizona allowed 368 yards per game last year, including 260 passing and 109 rushing yards. The Cardinals were #24 in total defense and #29 in pass defense. Still, Arizona was #5 in points allowed at 18.7 points per game. This was mainly due to Arizona’s +8 turnover margin.

Quarterback Carson Palmer played in only six games last year due to injury. He suffered a shoulder injury in the season opener and would miss about a month. Palmer played in five more games but was lost for the season with a torn ACL. He threw for 1,626 yards with 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Back-up Drew Stanton wasn’t terrible in 9 games but he wasn’t exactly great either. He threw for 1,711 yards with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, and rushed for 63 yards on 25 carries. He sprained his knee in week 15 and wouldn’t play again. Both Palmer and Stanton are back. The Cardinals also traded for Matt Barkley from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Not only were there injuries to the quarterbacks but leading rusher Andre Ellington suffered a knee injury in the first week. He was never healthy for the season or very effective. Ellington never rushed for more than 95 yards in any game. He would miss the last four games of the season with a hernia. Ellington rushed for 660 yards on 201 carries with 3 touchdowns, along with 46 catches for 395 yards and 2 touchdowns. Stepfan Taylor had 63 carries for 208 yards and a touchdown, along with 11 catches for 79 yards. Arizona also signed free agent Chris Johnson.  The Cardinals drafted David Johnson in the third round out of Northern Iowa. He will also get some carries.

Receiver Michael Floyd had 47 catches for 841 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is questionable with three broken fingers for the regular season opener. Larry Fitzgerald had 63 catches for 784 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rookie John Brown had 48 catches for 696 yards and 5 touchdowns. Receiver Jaron Brown had 22 catches for 229 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ted Ginn, Jr. went back to the Panthers after one year with the Cardinals. The Cardinals drafted J.J. Nelson in the fifth round out of UAB.

Tight end John Carlson had 33 catches for 350 yards and a touchdown. He was released and has yet to be picked up by a team. Troy Niklas will take over as the new tight end. He is questionable with a hamstring injury, as is free agent signee Jermaine Gresham.  Darren Fells and free agent Joseph Fauria are the only healthy tight ends on the roster. Ifeyani Momah and Gerald Christian are both on injured reserve.

New Orleans is 4-1 ATS in road games, 2-6 overall and and 1-4 against NFC teams. Four of the last five games in this series have gone over the total. The Saints have covered 6 of the last 8 meetings against the Cardinals.

Arizona is 6-1 ATS at home, 4-1 in week one, 7-2 on grass, 8-3 in September, 13-5 against NFC teams and 17-7 overall. The home team has covered the last 5 games in this series.

Both teams have some questions at receiver and tight end. Still, even without Floyd, Palmer still has Fitzgerald and Brown. The problem will be at tight end because the Cardinals use a lot of two tight end sets. Still, I like the Cardinals at home in a close game.

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