Arizona Cardinals Fly South To Face New Orleans Saints in Divisional Playoffs
Entering wildcard Saturday, I hoped that Dallas would beat Philadelphia because I believed the Saints would have the best shot of winning against either the Packers or the Cardinals, as opposed to the well-coached Eagles.
Entering wildcard Sunday, I hoped that the Cardinals would beat the Packers, assuming that a mobile Aaron Rodgers, combined with the No. 2 defense in the league, was more daunting to the Saints than an aging, statuesque Kurt Warner.
The only thing I've learned this wildcard weekend is that I should be careful what I wish for.
Watching the ol' gunslinger best the young gunner Sunday in the highest scoring playoff game in history made me pine for Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb in such a way that a grown man should never express publicly.
The Saints are no strangers to being burned by the passing game, although this year has been a vast improvement from seasons past.
But if there's one thing that will make Saints fans squirm on their barstools, it's the thought of Hall-of-Fame-in-waiting Warner and his Pro Bowl receivers pitch-and-catching all over the Superdome.
Thinking rationally for a second, the Saints (on paper) seem to have the advantage.
The Saints are better in almost every statistical offensive category, most by a wide margin.
And in perhaps the most telling stat—it certainly was in the Packers/ Cardinals game—the Saints are +11 in turnovers while the Cardinals are -7.
With a better offense and a more opportunistic defense, I'll take the Saints in a shootout any day.
Moreover, the Cardinals had a much easier time making it down the road to the playoffs.
In addition to winning the worst division in the NFL, the NFC West, the Cardinals went 1-1 against teams that made the playoffs while the Saints are 3-1.
Even without tangible statistics, though, the Saints still have a lot working in their favor.
They've been resting while the Cards, who now practice on a short week, were playing into overtime on Sunday.
The Saints are also playing host in possibly the loudest, most violent atmosphere any opposing team will have the displeasure of playing.
The Superdome crowd is a monster in itself, but in the playoffs, the atmosphere changes like the wolfman in a full moon.
And if there's a coach that I trust to diagnose an offense and pick out all the holes and vulnerabilities, it's Sean Payton.
If he and Gregg Williams can't slow down Warner and friends on Saturday, it's going to be because of poor execution, not game preparation.
Critics will say that on the cusp of the Saints' three-game collapse to end the season, the Cardinals could easily steal one in New Orleans.
They were saying the exact same thing a year ago when the Cardinals gave up an average of 34 points in their last three regular season games to end 2008 at 1-2 (9-7 overall).
A month later, they're a Ben Roethlisberger drive away from a Super Bowl title.
New Year, new team, same story. All that's left is the outcome.
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