SERIES HISTORY: 29th regular-season meeting. Arizona leads the series, 15-13. The Cardinals have won four of the last five home matchups. New Orleans won the lone playoff meeting -- a 2009 NFC divisional round game which ultimately marked the end of quarterback Kurt Warner's career in Arizona. The Cardinals won the last matchup, 31-19 at University of Phoenix Stadium last season. The Cardinals are 11-6 at home.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
When most of us circled this matchup on the NFL schedule before the season, it was probably with the thought they would have 10 wins each, rather than 10 combined.
The Saints lost for the fourth time in their last five games Sunday, a 16-11 setback in Tampa Bay. New Orleans has allowed fewer than 20 points just twice this season -- and has lost both games (16-13 at Giants in Week 2).
Arizona lost 26-23 at Miami last week on a game-ending 21-yard field goal by the Dolphins' Andrew Franks. The Cardinals were 7-1 on the road last season but fell to 1-5 this season -- the only win coming in Week 5 at San Francisco (33-21).
Saints QB Drew Brees has not thrown a TD in the last two games, which will be a difficult streak to end when the Cardinals field a defense that is No. 1 overall (298.5 ypg) and No. 2 against the pass (201.8 ypg). While Brees' sudden inability to toss scoring passes is a concern in New Orleans, the Saints still know how to move the ball. They lead the league in total offense (418.3 ypg) and passing (313.9 ypg).
All of that shows the value of statistics, considering these are teams each seeking a sixth win. The problem with the Saints is the lack of a running game the past two weeks, and now they have to go against the 10th-ranked rushing defense.
The Saints will try to show more improvement in an upward trend that started eight games ago. In those eight games, they have allowed just two second-half touchdowns, and they have played well enough in the past two games to win.
To beat the Saints, the Cardinals must apply a steady rush on Brees that disrupts his timing and makes him uncomfortable in the pocket. Another way to limit the damage that Brees can bring is by owning time of possession, which Arizona can do with running back David Johnson. The running game is now a focal point for the Cardinals, although QB Carson Palmer is always capable of launching a deep pass.
To help keep the ball away from Brees, Johnson is a key as a runner or receiver. Johnson needs 100 yards from scrimmage to become the first player in NFL history to record 100 yards via rushing or receiving in each of his team's first 14 games.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Saints offensive line vs. Cardinals front seven. The Saints didn't have a good game against the Bucs last week, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. Not having center Max Unger because of a foot injury was a major part of that, but Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower didn't have much room to run at all. The Cardinals rank 10th in the NFL at 110.6 yards per game, so the offensive line will have to be at its best to give their two power backs some running lanes.
--Cardinals RB David Johnson vs. Saints front four. Johnson is the most productive runner/receiver the Saints will have faced this season, so keeping close tabs on him will be vital. With 1,085 yards, 11 TDs and a 4.4 average and 69 receptions for 745 yards and four scores, he will be a handful for the Saints. Still, the Saints have given up just 82.6 rushing yards per game in the last seven outings, yielding just 3.3 yards per carry, and only two teams have gained more than 100 yards in that stretch.
SUNDAY TEAM REPORT:
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
--Out: LB Stephone Anthony (knee), CB Delvin Breaux (shoulder)
--Questionable: S Shiloh Keo (hamstring), RB Daniel Lasco (hamstring, knee), LB Craig Robertson (shoulder), C Max Unger (foot)
--Out: T D.J. Humphries (concussion)
MLB Stephone Anthony. Largely forgotten this season after a fantastic rookie campaign in 2015, the former first-round draft pick returned to a more familiar role in the middle last week in replacing an injured Craig Robertson. Moved to the strong side spot in the offseason when the Saints signed James Laurinaitis, Anthony didn't make the transition and eventually lost playing time when the Saints went to three-safety sets. With a chance to shine last week against the Bucs, Anthony performed well and recorded a team-high nine tackles, with a tackle for loss in a goal-line stand.
Saints QB Drew Brees has thrown no TD passes and three interceptions in each of his last two starts (Detroit and Tampa Bay). In his first 169 starts with the Saints (from 2006 through Week 12 this season), he had just two games with no touchdowns and three or more interceptions.
Saints WR Michael Thomas leads NFL rookies in receptions (69), yards (831) and TD catches (7).
Saints S Vonn Bell ranks second among NFL rookie safeties with 63 tackles.
Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has 2,094 yards passing, 11 TDs and 3 INTs in his past seven home games.
Arizona RB David Johnson leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,830) and TDs (15) and is third in yards rushing (1,085).
The home team has won the last six games in this series going back to 2004, including 45-14 by the Saints in the divisional round of the 2009 playoffs. Arizona earned a 31-19 home win over the Saints in Week 1 last season. Therefore, although it is difficult to pick against Brees.
OUR PICK: Cardinals, 28-24.