This week on Thursday Night Football, we’ll be able to watch another matchup between teams who have probably achieved below their expectations so far this season. Dennis Allen’s tenure as the Saints’ head coach has gotten off to a tough start, as he’s gone 2-4 so far, and Kliff Kingsbury might be wondering if his time as an NFL head coach will be up sooner than later if he loses a few more games. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for this redemption battle on Thursday Night.
Saints Vs. Cardinals Betting Odds
This is a tough game to handicap with most of the New Orleans offense on the injury report, and the spread is tight; just -1.5 in favor of Arizona at home. The points total is set at 45, a little curious given the struggles of both offenses, as well as some health issues; and not to mention, it’s been rare to see an over on Thursday night this year with two teams coming off of the short week.
Saints Vs. Cardinals Prediction
It’s looking like this could be another ugly Thursday Night slugfest; the Saints aren’t totally sure who will be playing Quarterback between injuries to both Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton, and they’ll also be missing most, if not all, of their receiving corps, with only Chris Olave even tentatively expected to see the field in Arizona. The defense has also been worse than expected for New Orleans under Allen, a defensive-minded coach; they’ve allowed the fifth-most points per game so far, despite not having played the most prolific group of offenses so far this season.
The Cardinals have had their own offensive struggles this year, as they’ve averaged less than 20 points a game; relatively startling for the amount of offensive talent they’re supposed to have. Kyler Murray has been a catalyst at times, but pretty unimpressive on the whole; fairly concerning for a player who usually starts his seasons strong. The biggest thing this team might have going for them this week is that DeAndre Hopkins will be returning from his suspension, doled out after he was confirmed to have used the least-effective performance enhancing drugs of all time.
Hopkins would be a huge potential boost to any lethargic offense at any time, but it could be especially meaningful to add a fresh set of legs to an offense, and against a defense, that might be feeling the wear and tear of the short turnaround from a Sunday game to a Thursday night matchup. Hopkins might be particularly effective given the fact that Marshon Lattimore is not expected to play, and thus will not be around to slow him down.
Despite Hopkins’s reintroduction to the NFL, I do not expect this to be a high-scoring affair. I’m all over the under for the points total of 45, but it’s definitely worth shopping around different books to see if you can find it a point or so higher. I’m also going to pick Arizona to cover the spread; the “addition” of Hopkins could be the biggest positive for either team coming into this matchup, and New Orleans is very injured; I’d be impressed if they went on the road on short rest and got the job done, but I just don’t see it happening.
- The Cardinals have only covered the spread once across their past 8 home games, certainly something to look at for a team entering Thursday as a narrow favorite at home
- The under has hit in the Cardinals’ past 5 games, and each of the Saints’ past 3. Given that information, 45 is definitely a number to look at; it’s not astronomically high, but it’s not as low as you might expect for teams that have been trending in that direction
Saints Injuries: Jameis Winston (Q), Andy Dalton (Q), Marshon Lattimore (Q), Andrus Peat (Q)
Cardinals Injuries: Eno Benjamin (Q), Zaven Collins (Q), Rashard Lawrence (Q)
Saints vs Cardinals Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Saints Vs. Cardinals below.
Cardinals Runners vs. Saints Front Seven
The Cardinals’ run game is extremely interesting; PFF gives their rushers the fourth-best grade in the league, but their run blocking the third-worst mark. It all balances out to just about league average in terms of yardage output- 119.3 per game, good for 15th in the NFL. The ability to pick up rushing yards without great blocking comes down to an ability to find space, or break tackles, often outside of the offensive tackles. The game against the Seahawks was a great example of this; Kyler Murray, who does most of his running on the outside, picked up 100 ground yards on 10 carries, while Arizona’s backs struggled to just 44 yards on 18 totes. Indeed, Murray is the team’s leading rusher so far this season with 233 yards, it would be great for them to get going on the inside this week as well.
If that’s going to happen, however, it’ll have to be against the run defense that PFF considers to be #10 in the NFL, despite the fact that they are giving up a below-average total of over 120 rushing yards per game. That Saints run defense has relied on edge rushers Cameron Jordan, a New Orleans fixture, and Carl Granderson, who has defended the run on far less snaps than Jordan, but also has yet to miss a tackle and has a stop rate of 14.7%. Given Murray’s ability to get outside and make plays, edge play is going to be tremendously important for New Orleans this week. Demario Davis has been steady and solid in run defense, and his linebacking partner leads the team by far with 25 tackles on rushing play. If this group can contain Murray and be disruptive on the interior, it would be easy to imagine that they’d be able to pick up the big road win.
Saints Rushing Offense vs. Cardinals Rushing Defense
Somewhat surprisingly, PFF sees the Cardinals defense as the league’s worst, despite the fact that they’re more than 10 spots away from the bottom in terms of points allowed, and actually 12th-best when it comes to yardage. Less shockingly, they’ve evaluated the Saints offense as #8 in the NFL, with New Orleans sitting in 6th in yardage per game, and 12th in scoring. Success for Arizona will of course start with reversing these trends, and of course, their job will be made easier by the lack of healthy starters in the New Orleans passing game; so let’s focus on the run.
The Saints pick up over 150 rushing yards per game, good for 7th in the NFL, and PFF says they have just about a league-average run blocking line. So, credit is owed to star running back Alvin Kamara, who has over 300 yards in only 4 games of action but was back to form with 99 on Sunday, and Tight End/QB/all-around football guy Taysom Hill, who has averaged 10.3 yards per carry and has 5 of New Orleans’ 8 rushing touchdowns thus far (none for Kamara). Ryan Ramczyk has been solid at tackle, but the rest of the line has been subpar in the rushing game. On top of all of that, there may be a backup in for Andrus Peat at guard, so the interior line could be even more vulnerable in the rushing game.
Arizona have been solid in run prevention, 7th-best in the league by yardage. Their best run-stopper, according to PFF, has actually been do-it-all safety Budda Baker, who has played nearly the most run-prevention snaps of anyone on the team, and has earned a grade of 81.3 across these efforts. His average depth of tackle on run plays is 4.3, very solid for a defensive back, and he’s even forced a fumble. Zach Allen has been maybe the best run defender among Arizona’s front seven, and J.J. Watt has been involved in a limited capacity from a snaps perspective, but still is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss. There are opportunities here for New Orleans to run wild, but if Arizona has some questionable players healthy and plays up to potential, they should be able to contain Kamara and limit Hill’s gamebreaking moments.