Saints first playoff opponent revealed: Arizona Cardinals
Your New Orleans Saints will step onto the field for the first time in 2010 for the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs on Saturday, January 16. Up until now and thanks to a first round bye, we had no idea who their opponent was. That has now changed as they will face Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals.
The Wild Card Round in the NFC got off to a hot start for the Dallas Cowboys as they came out and just demolished the Philadelphia Eagles 34-14. Had the Eagles persevered then they would have been the team coming to town as they were the NFC's lowest seeded playoff team. Seeing as how the Cowboys were the highest seeded NFC team out of the Wild Card teams then they bought a ticket to Minnesota for round two of the playoffs.
That meant today's game between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals became something to watch for Saints' fans. And it surely did not disappoint. The Cardinals won the chaotic game 51-45 in overtime sending the Packers home for the season.
The Cardinals had built an early lead but then squandered it away only to have Neil Rackers come in with 14 seconds left and attempt a 34-yard field goal that would have won the game...and he pulled it and watched the football sail wide left. Green Bay did one kneel down, came out and won the overtime coin toss, and went to work. But it was Arizona's Karlos Dansby that picked up the loose ball knocked out of Aaron Rodgers' hands and ran it in 17 yards for the winning score.
What appeared to be a blowout from the very beginning of the game turned into a veritable shootout making it appear as if both defenses had simply left the stadium. The Cardinals came out on fire causing two turnovers by the Packers on their first three plays which led to 14 quick points and eventually a 17-0 lead. Halftime came around the Cardinals were still in control 24-10 even though things had calmed down a little bit.
Momentum was still on their side coming out of the locker rooms after halftime as it took less than four minutes for them to go up 31-10 on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald from Kurt Warner. From that moment on though, momentum shifted to the Pack and it was Aaron Rodgers' turn to take the spotlight getting two touchdown scores on passes to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson.
From that moment on it was back and forth scoring until all was said and done giving the Arizona Cardinals what black and gold fans hope is a one-and-done ticket to New Orleans. Arizona participated in the highest scoring postseason game of all time so let's just hope they don't match that effort against the Saints next week.
The Saints have had time to rest and heal up as Coach Sean Payton gave the team most of their first week off. Work picked back up on Saturday though after their four day layoff with what was said to be a very competitive practice session. Both offense and defense got out their with a fire under them and made sure every bit of effort was put into practice to get ready for the playoff game.
Just about every player for the Saints was on the field and available to practice except for a few here and there. Defensive end Charles Grant was of course out due to landing on injured reserve thanks to a triceps' injury he suffered against Carolina.
Running back Pierre Thomas had a yellow no-contact jersey on as Payton is still being cautious with the starter after a rib injury suffered against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a few weeks ago. Thomas was on the field though and participating in practice.
Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring) and wide receiver Lance Moore (ankle) were not practicing, but both hope to be on the field by Tuesday after a day off on Monday.
It's going to be very interesting to see this match-up come Saturday because the Saints ended the season on such a sour note but have now had time to rest and heal up. Hopefully getting them back to how they were when they started the season 13-0.
Halfway through today's game, it almost became apparent to me that I didn't care which team actually won. Going into it, I was all for the Cardinals picking up the victory but then the defenses literally disappeared and it seemed as if neither team could stop a turtle from running past them to score. If the Saints are healthy and on their offensive game...then Drew Brees and all the weapons he has should light up the scoreboard of the Superdome on Saturday.
Both the Packers and Cardinals had over 450 yards of total offense showing me that Brees should come out onto the field licking his chops. My only real hope is that the defense led by Darren Sharper, Will Smith, and Jonathan Vilma remembers the play from early on in the season that got them national recognition. If today's game is any sign of things to come then they're going to need every bit of talent they have to stop Warner, Steve Breaston, Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet, Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells, and the rest of the high-flying Cardinals. And if Anquan Boldin heals up by Saturday then there's another problem to watch.
My prediction still holds true and I'm calling for a Saints' victory here, but maybe it won't be as much of a blowout as originally thought. I'm going to stick with my original thoughts though and leave it all as is. I'll be around all week with coverage leading up to the black and gold's first playoff game on their trek to Super Bowl XLIV.
Be ready on Saturday, January 16 at 4:30 EST (3:30 Central) on FOX as the Saints take on the Cardinals for a right to go to the NFC Championship game.
Prediction: Saints 41 - Cardinals 24
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