It's that time of week again. Without a doubt, the Arizona Cardinals' stiffest test of the season will come this Sunday in a tilt against the soaring New Orleans Saints in Louisiana. On a five game winning streak with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the helm (but with Drew Brees having said he'll return against the Cardinals, who knows?) and a stifling run defense allowing less than 100 yards per game, the Saints may just be the class of the NFC. That said, these Arizona Cardinals are dangerous, and who knows how the "P2 Effect" might change the game?
Without further ado, let's get into some bold predictions for the Cardinals' harshest test of the season.
1. Kyler Murray runs free
The New Orleans Saints have a talented secondary, featuring Eli Apple and Marshon Lattimore. If these two match up in man on the Cardinals' top two receivers on each play, the Arizona quarterback might find it difficult to pick up chunk yardage plays. Luckily, Kyler Murray is so much more than just his arm talent.
When plays break down and Murray's seeming sixth sense for not getting hit kicks in, I trust in his sixth sense to pick up positive yardage. If the Saints try to play contain and have linebackers on Murray to keep him in the pocket, he may be able to find weak points in their coverages; if they play too honest and keep him uncovered, Kyler Murray has proven he can get it done with his legs, too.
I believe Kyler Murray will rush for at least 75 yards against New Orleans' defense.
2. Arizona protects the ball
In four of their seven games this season, the Arizona Cardinals didn't have a turnover. The team has yet to fumble. Kyler Murray has thrown 4 picks, fewer than several notable day one starters (Deshaun Watson, Phillip Rivers, Lamar Jackson). It's a refreshing turnaround from the interception and fumble-prone Cardinals of 2018.
I believe the Cardinals commit no turnovers and will continue to protect the football this Sunday. Kyler Murray will have his fifth game without an interception, and the Cards' fumble streak will continue.
3. A line coming together
The Arizona Cardinals offensive line has been much maligned over the years. This season, with veteran addition J.R Sweezy and the addition of a healthy A.Q Shipley and Justin Pugh, the Cardinals unit has performed above expectations in recent weeks (even if against bad defenses).
Many of Kyler Murray's sacks early on came from him running backwards and refusing to give up on plays. Every game he's improved, however, and he too has gelled somewhat with his offensive line.
The Saints have a great defense, and players like Cameron Jordan could potentially wreak havoc. That being said, the Cardinals will hold the Saints to three sacks or less.
4. A premiere matchup
Michael Thomas is a special wide receiver (he reminds me of a young Larry Fitzgerald, but with consistently better quarterback play). He's been dominant no matter who has taken snaps under center for New Orleans. Patrick Peterson, a cornerback used to matching up against opposing WR1s, faces a nightmare of a test in his second game back from suspension.
Patrick Peterson was solid in coverage and recorded a sack last week against the Giants. Will he be ready to face off against a young, premiere receiver in their prime?
I say yes. Peterson has always been one to rise to the challenge, and he's surely looking forward to a chance to prove he still belongs in the upper echelons of the league's cornerbacks. This Sunday, when Patrick Peterson is covering Michael Thomas is a key matchup in this game. I believe Peterson will limit Thomas to 4 catches and less than 50 yards.
5. The Cardinals defense continues to trend upwards
The Arizona Cardinals defense had a huge performance last week. Chandler Jones, with 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles (one which he recovered), was unstoppable. This week's test against the Saints comes against a much better offensive line.
I think Chandler Jones will record 2 sacks against a Saints offensive line giving up fewer than 2 sacks per game. I think the Cardinals defense will finish with three sacks in total, and I also predict an improved Arizona secondary picking off the Saints quarterback, be it Hall of Famer Drew Brees or veteran stalwart Teddy Bridgewater. Bold, indeed.
6. Cardinals get the Win
Only one last prediction to make- the score. This one is tough for me to call. The Cardinals are playing with swagger after three wins in a row, but the Saints are clearly, top-to-bottom, the better roster. Even with their backup quarterback they're among the class of the NFC. The Cardinals, meanwhile, ave played three riveting games- against three bad teams. If they make the same mistakes they made against the Ravens, Seahawks, or Panthers, this game could get ugly fast.
That said, I take heart from how Kliff Kingsbury's playcalling has improved each game, and how every game an already stellar Kyler Murray seems to show more of the reasons he belongs here. The Arizona Cardinals threw convention out the window this offseason (firing a coach after one year, hiring a seemingly unproven college coach, trading a QB selected in the first round after one year). Fortune favors the bold, as they say, and Arizona's bold moves may have made them more dangerous than we thought.
So, for the boldest prediction of all this week, I'm predicting the Arizona Cardinals will leave Louisiana with a 27-24 win, stunning the Saints by handing them their second loss of the season.
Need more Cardinals news before the game? Check out the Cardinals chances if Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara play, or read up more on Patrick Peterson's premiere matchup against Michael Thomas.