Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints: 2010 NFC Divisional Round Playoffs
The Saints and Cardinals seem to have more in common than you would think.
Both have star quarterbacks which other teams gave up on.
Both teams have high octane offenses capable of scoring 50 points on any given weekend.
More importantly than that, both franchises have gone through Super Bowl droughts unlike any other team in football.
The home team Saints, established in 1967, have never seen the Super Bowl up close and personal. Ironically, New Orleans has hosted the Super Bowl many times, but the Saints have never been Super Bowl participants.
The drought of Super Bowl appearances for Arizona however can be counted in months, not years. The Cardinals made their first Super Bowl appearance last year after not reaching an NFL Championship game since winning it all in 1947, as the Chicago Cardinals, in the pre-Super Bowl era.
These two teams have been faces of futility in the NFL for so many years, it seems like we're in a bizarro universe when we say we have the New Orleans Saints (not the 'Aints) hosting a home playoff game after a first-round bye, against the Arizona Cardinals, who certainly will not be taking anyone by surprise in this year's playoffs after a remarkable run to last year's Super Bowl.
However, that is where we are now. Arizona, fresh off its second straight playoff appearance, trying to repeat last year's improbable run that saw them almost come away with a Super Bowl championship.
Last week, Kurt Warner was usual magnificent postseason self, something we should be used to by now. Warner picked apart Green Bay's second-ranked defense for five touchdowns in a game where he only threw four incomplete passes. In one of the most spectacular playoff games in NFL history, Warner's Cardinals squeaked by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and won a trip to the Superdome.
The Saints limped into the playoffs losing three straight games after a 13-0 start. Despite the way it ended, the Saints still had the best season in franchise history and will look to exorcise their playoff demons at home in front of their faithful followers, the "Who Dat" nation.
Brees set an NFL record for completion percentage this season as the Saints rolled over everyone in their path for the first 13 games of the 2009 season. The question will be can they pick it back up in time for this afternoon's game.
Like a previous column I wrote today, previewing the Colts and Ravens game, there will be similar questions about Brees and the Saints like there are about Peyton Manning and the Colts.
After really not playing a meaningful game since a home loss to Dallas on December 19th, can the Saints get back into an offensive rhythm in time for the showdown with Warner's Cardinals today?
Brees was inactive for week 17, when the Saints lost their third consecutive game to end the season. No team has ever won a Super Bowl in a season where they finished 0-3 to end the year. Also, the Saints have never appeared in a Super Bowl.
Arizona is more than capable of playing calm, cool, and collected in the rabid playoff atmosphere in the Superdome. For New Orleans' sake, they better come ready to play against Kurt Warner and company.
Chris Berman half-jokingly predicted the score of this game to be 77-75. Does the Superdome scoreboard support triple digits?
In the end, I think the real battle that a lot of people will overlook is how well the Cardinals running game fares against the Saints defense. This could be a key factor in controlling the clock, and stopping the run may be the Saints biggest weakness that no one is talking about.
In what should be another classic, I think the Saints fans go home happy and the city of New Orleans will be one step closer to that elusive Super Bowl appearance.
Saints 38, Cardinals 24
(For more football news, as well as the best Mets, Jets and Nets analysis, visit my personal blog, MetsJetsNetsBlog)
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