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How Saints Starters Brees and Kamara Returning Impacts The Cardinals Winning Chances

Looking at the differences between the Saints starters Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara playing vs. the Cardinals compared to their backups Teddy Bridgewater and Latavius Murray.

By: Christopher Haddad 

The Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1) are riding cautiously high after a 3 game win streak. However, now they prepare to face arguably their stiffest test yet on Sunday against the surging New Orleans Saints (6-1). The Saints, despite star 40 year old quarterback Drew Brees sustaining a thumb injury in the second game of the season, have gone 5-0 under backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Last week they soundly defeated the Bears in Chicago, 36-25, without both Brees and star running back, Alvin Kamara. Both Brees and Kamara were limited in practice on Thursday, with Kamara being an upgrade from his DNP status on Wednesday. The question is, how will the Saints personal decisions impact the Cardinals chances of winning Sunday with both Brees and Kamara return to the lineup?

The thing about the Saints is, they are an extremely balanced team, with enviable depth. Bridgewater has always shown that he can carry a team, whether it be as a backup or as a starter. He has been solid in his 5 starts since taking over for Brees, finding different receivers and relying on a running game that has continued to produce despite leaning heavily on Latavius Murray in Sunday’s game (25 carries for 113 yards). The Cardinals know they have their work cut out for them despite who plays.

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Brees will be the starter when he decides he is healthy, that much is certain. The question is, does he wait until after the Saints’ Bye week, which comes right after Sunday’s game, or does he feel good enough to play now? Nobody is saying for sure. When asked directly about his status for Sunday’s game, Brees quipped, “I’ll tell Sean if I’m ready, and he’ll believe me.” He claims he wants to play. The thing is, whether he plays or Bridgewater gets a 6th game, the defensive line needs to produce as they did last week. The offensive line of the Saints is much better than that of the Giants, so I highly doubt 8 sacks is possible. But Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs need to find their gaps and make either quarterback as uncomfortable as possible. If they are able to create this type of pressure, it might be preferable to see Brees behind center, as he is an aging quarterback who might not be in the best football shape after his extended thumb injury. If they are unable to create and sustain pressure, it most likely won’t matter.

The bigger fear might be at running back, where either Kamara or Murray could do some damage. One of the biggest complaints by national pundits about the Cardinals this year has been their ongoing struggles stopping the run. The Cardinals showed last week with the return of All Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson, that they have the capability to create far more pressure up front by bringing a safety up into the box. This should aid the rush defense, but they will have to have an even better game against the Saints in order to slow the running game. Overall, either RB can have a big day, and their success or lack thereof could depend heavily on the play of the linebackers and safeties to help create pressure up front and at least slow them down, especially if they get a 2 possession lead into the second half, and start taking time off the clock.

Probably the toughest part of both of these scenarios is that the team has no real idea who will play. Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph has to have his team prepared for both quarterbacks, as well as making sure they try to keep the RB between the safeties. The past 3 weeks have been increasingly exciting with each win, but now the real games begin. This week is only the 1st. Against arguably the best team in the NFC. In New Orleans. With a 10:00am start time, Arizona time. This game will be no easy feat for the Cardinals, despite who is under center, and to whom that person is handing the ball.