Saints Receivers vs. Cardinals Secondary-
Advantage- Saints Receivers:
Marques Colston has a sizable advantage over Dominique Rogers Cromartie and Bryant McFadden, and if put in man coverage, he'll simply out-muscle his corner and beat him. In zone, Colston is smart enough to find the hole and make himself visible to Drew Brees. He also has the strength to get off the jam at the line of scrimmage. Meachem and Henderson are so fast that it will be nearly impossible to hold them up unless the Cardinals play a 2 or 3 deep zone behind the man coverage. Moore is the perfect slot receiver. He has sure hands, amazing quickness, precise route-running, great endurance, and a deep intelligence. Add Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas catching from out of the backfield, and the Cardinals will have a very tough time locking up the Saints receivers. Jeremy Shockey also presents a potent threat down the middle of the field, which prevents the Cardinals defense from being able to play deep zone coverage.
Saints Backs vs. Cardinals Front 7-
Advantage - Saints Backs:
Pierre Thomas is not only capable of running the ball between the tackles, but also he can run on the outside, making him a dual threat. He has great vision and explosiveness, a low center of gravity, and generates yards after contact. Reggie Bush has a great burst and once he gets through the first line of defenders, he is nearly impossible to catch up with. Mike Bell is able to pound the ball and grind out the tough 3 to 4 yards in short yardage situations or 4-minute offense. All three backs have a different style and bring a change of pace when they are in the game. It also helps that they are running behind an offensive line that has been nominated to the Most Valuable Protectors Award and may even win it.
Saints Secondary vs. Cardinals Receivers-
Although the Saints will likely have their entire secondary healthy for the game, it likely will not be enough to cover the Cardinals receiving corps, which is arguably the best in the league. Not only do they have great outside receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, who is just an athletic freak who can get off the line of scrimmage, split the double team, and outrace defenders on the way to the end zone, and Anquan Boldin, who is one of the most physical receivers in all of football who can break tackles and play through injury (even though the scored 51 without the guy!!!!!); but also they have Steve Breaston, who would be a starter on nearly any other team in the NFL. Don't forget former LSU Tiger Early Doucet, either, who emerged very nicely against the packers; and Jeremy Urban, who is quite sure-handed and a pretty good route runner.
Saints Front 7 vs. Cardinals Backs-
Advantage-Saints Front 7.
Although Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower bring a physical presence to the Cardinals offense, I think the Saints will bounce back against the run. The Saints have gone back to the fundamentals of gap control and have also had a nice couple of weeks of rest, which is really good for those big guys up front. It is very difficult to have a high motor for every play, every week of the season. The Saints had their bye week in week four of the season, so their lines have had 13 straight weeks of rigorous work. The Saints will control the Cardinals run game and my prediction is they will hold them to less than 75 yards rushing.
Saints kicking/coverage units vs. Cardinals return unit-
Thomas Morstead is a top 5 punter in the NFL and has a knack for pinpointing the ball inside the 10, thus giving the Saints defense a chance to pin its ears back and rush the passer. Morstead also has a knack for delivering deep kickoffs, which prevent nice returns from the opposing team, and field position is an essential advantage in the playoffs. The Saints will have Usama Young back to play on special teams, and he is a star on that unit. Also, Sean Payton will be using starters on coverage units, so I do not see us giving up a big return. Also, I think Garrett Hartley will fare just fine in the playoffs. I'd prefer that he not have to kick the game-winning kick, though, because he is only a second year pro
Saints return unit vs. Cardinals kicking/coverage units-
Reggie Bush has yet to break a big return this season, and i think that will change very soon. A guy with the kind of speed and quickness as Reggie Bush is money on returns, and I think he will fix it for the playoffs. He has seemed more decisive on his cuts on punt returns in recent games and I think that he will explode in the playoffs. Courtney Roby is one of the speedier kick returners in the NFL and should give the Saints some stable field position everytime he fields a kick.
This one was a difficult one, but I think it came down to the fact that Gregg Williams has turned this defense around. We are number 2 in the league in causing turnovers and that is important. Whichever team wins the turnover battle nearly always wins the game. Sean Payton is also an innovative offensive playcaller and he knows how to determine the weaknesses and tendencies of a defense to exploit them.
Final Score-Saints 56 Cardinals 27