We’re back with further speculations on next season’s opponents. Let’s see who the Saints will meet in week 3 and week 4, after two divisional battles against the Falcons and the Bucs.
Week 3 @ Arizona Cardinals
The Cards got themselves a new starting quarterback after last year’s messy situation (Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Lindley…no need to say anything else) and a new head coach but that may not be enough to put up a winning season. Without a doubt Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald will feel more comfortable with Carson Palmer throwing the ball but the lack of a running game will slow down this offense. They released LaRod Stephens-Howling and brought in Rashard “fumbly” Mendenhall from the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s not exactly your ideal starting running back. The other options are Ryan Williams, rookie Stepfan Taylor or rookie Andre Ellington: not much to work with.
The defense in general isn’t bad: Patrick Peterson is a stud and 3rd round pick Tyrann Mathieu is really talented and a potential starter, if he doesn’t get into trouble.
Why the Saints can win this game: the offense led by Brees is far superior and will find a couple of ways to tear Arizona’s defense down.
Why the Saints can lose this game: Carson Palmer turns into Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald turns into Larry Fitzgerald.
Week 4 vs. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins have been one of the most aggressive teams during this offseason: a lot of money has been spent in free agency with the acquisitions of WR Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson, TE Dustin Keller, LB Dannelle Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler, CB Brent Grimes and OT Tyson Clabo. Then they climb up the draftboard, take Dion Jordan with the 3rd overall pick to get themselves a cool pair of pass rushers. The defensive unit is pretty solid (add to the aforementioned Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan a good combo on the inside of the line with Randy Starks and Paul Soliai) and rejuvenated (they got rid of Dansby and Burnett) but will probably be more effective against the run than against pass attempts.
On offense, Ryan Tannehill is the guy to keep an eye on: after a great rookie season that slipped under the radar because of Andrew Luck and RGIII, he’s gonna have another productive season with the new weapons Jeff Ireland provided him. The only thing that can hold Tannehill back is the poor backfield: Tannehill himself stated in a recent interview at NFL.com that the current starter is second-year running back Lamar Miller. Miller’s mates are 2011 second-rounder Daniel Thomas, rookie Mike Gillislee and kickoff/punt returner Marcus Thigpen. Meh.
Last time the two teams met was in 2009 and that was a really wild game. Ricky Williams punished the Saints’ defense with two touchdowns and Ronnie Brown got in the endzone one more time before the end of the first half. The Saints found themselves with a 14-point deficit at halftime after Brees went airborne for a TD with five second left in the second quarter. Thanks to Darren Sharper’s and Tracy Porter’s pick six, Jeremy Shockey’s huge stiff arm, Reggie Bush’s flying score and Drew Brees’ second rushing TD the Saints came back to win the game 46-34.
Why the Saints can win this game: again, New Orleans’ offense will be able to move the chains and score even if the ground game could be significantly slowed down by Miami’s hard-hitting defense.
Why the Saints can lose this game: if the Saints’ defense will not manage to create some kind of pressure and disrupt Tannehill’s rhythm the kid can be really dangerous.