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X-Factors For A Saints Win Over Cardinals

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After torching the Buccaneers for 179 yards and a touchdown in Week 2, Saints TE Jimmy Graham is poised for another monster performance against a Cardinals defense that struggles to cover opposing tight ends. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
After torching the Buccaneers for 179 yards and a touchdown in Week 2, Saints TE Jimmy Graham is poised for another monster performance against a Cardinals defense that struggles to cover opposing tight ends. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Over the last couple weeks, there has been a lot of concern about the New Orleans Saints up-and-down offense - in particular, the running game. Against an Arizona Cardinals defense that is tough against the run, the running game will be necessary in securing a win, but it will not be the biggest X-factor for a Saints win.

In this game,  there is one X-factor on offense and one on defense that will play a huge part in beating the Cardinals.

Offense

The Saints X-factor on offense is TE Jimmy Graham since the Cardinals defense has a problem covering tight ends. In Week 1, Rams TE Jared Cook caught seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns, which shows this could be a huge sore spot for the Cardinals that Saints QB Drew Brees could be exploiting.

Matching Graham against Arizona LB Carlos Dansby or SS Yeremiah Bell man-to-man or in a zone defense will be a mismatch in Graham’s favor.

The Cardinals play a lot of zone defense, and that is an advantage for Brees provided that the offensive line does not struggle against the Cardinals pass rush. Expect head coach Sean Payton to plan a few draw plays and screens to slow down their pass rush.

Defense

The Saints X-factor on defense will be their pass rush. When Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has time to throw, he can pick you apart.

There are ways to keep that from happening. Starting with the Cardinals offensive line, LT Levi Brown is a huge weak link. The Cardinals offensive line has allowed five sacks in the first two games of the season in part because of Brown's struggles with speed rushers and counter moves.

Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan just needs to keep sending a pass rusher on Brown's side and he is bound to give up some sacks. Junior Galette, Parys Haralson and Cameron Jordan have to be licking their chops before this one.

The other key aspect that ties into the problems of the Cardinals offensive line is that because the Cardinals like to run vertical, down-the-field plays, the quarterback needs more time for the play to develop. By keeping pressure on Palmer, it forces him to dump the pass off to a running back or rush the throw, which could easily end up as a turnover.

Despite the Saints up-and-down performance on offense so far this year, this could be a good game to help them get back on track. Do not assume the Cardinals are a bad team because they actually have a pretty strong roster overall, and the Saints need a good solid game against a very competitive team to get them back to consistency on offense.

Prediction:  Saints 28, Cardinals 17