How did the Saints' next three opponents fare through week four?
~ Arizona Cardinals (2-2) lost 41-10 to the Chargers: In the midst of a 3-way tie atop the NFC West, the 2-2 record of the Cardinals is incredibly misleading. Their two losses have been total blowouts and made them look incredibly bad. Which in reality, they kind of are. At the beginning of the season, there was a quarterback battle between Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson to see who would replace the retiring Kurt Warner. Four games down and Leinart is in Houston, Anderson is on the bench, and rookie Max Hall is getting his first career start against the defending Super Bowl champions. Fun eh?
That's not to say that the Cardinals aren't dangerous because they truly have their moments and a good bit of talent so there is no reason to underestimate them. Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower can break open a long run at any moment. Larry Fitzgerald is a nightmare for defenses to guard and a battered Saints' secondary could see him have a field day this weekend. That is, if Hall can stay upright and get the ball to him. The injuries would honestly put the Saints and Cardinals on a bit of a level playing field, but Arizona is suffering from injuries of their own and a lot of inconsistent play.
~ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) were on a bye: The bye week came at the right time for the Bucs as they had started the season on an unexpected 2-0 jump. But then the Pittsburgh Steelers (sans Ben Roethlisberger) headed down to Florida and completely demolished them. That had to take a lot of wind out of their parachute and bring them crashing back down to earth hard. Showing you just how bad things had gotten in that game, the Buccaneers offense watched as a defensive lineman for the Steelers intercepted a pass and rumbled 79 yards for a touchdown. Even with a 21-yard head start, someone should have been able to catch that guy.
Some promise has been shown but their two victories have come over Cleveland (come from behind win at that) and the Carolina Panthers. Their offense shed some dead weight in the preseason by getting rid of Derrick Ward and Michael Clayton which needed to be done. They just are a very young team offensively and still trying to gel completely under coach Raheem Morris. Defensively, they're finally starting to get a little younger and faster, but as evidenced by their performance against the Steelers, push them and they'll break.
~ Cleveland Browns won 23-20 over the Bengals: Each week the Browns have looked like they have been improving and that's not a good sign for the Saints if the trend continues. Defeating the Bengals was no easy feat as they had won eight straight in the NFC North and saw a day where Terrell Owens hauled in over 200 yards receiving. Cleveland still did enough to keep pace and stay just ahead. Their defense isn't very good and it's the reason their only victory this season was so close and the reason they gave up a late lead to the Baltimore Ravens. One note to mention though is that the game against the Saints will mark the return of linebacker Scott Fujita to the town that loved him so much over the past four years.
Offensively the Browns are a bit of a mess. Jake Delhomme started the season at quarterback but went down in week one with an injury and making way for Seneca Wallace to take over. Neither have been impressive and one might wonder when coach Eric Mangini will give rookie Colt McCoy a shot at leading the team. It's hard to tell at this point just who will be leading the Browns' offense by the time they roll into the Superdome so it's best to keep an eye on them. Keeping an eye is what the run defense will need to do especially with Peyton Hillis exploding onto the scene and showing his true worth. Hillis ran for close to 150 yards againts the Ravens and topped the century mark against the Bengals. Sedrick Ellis had better have his Pee-Wee Herman dance ready and be ready to make sure Hillis doesn't have his own track meet in New Orleans.
Can the Saints make it through a stretch of games that appears rather "easy" on paper and head into their Halloween night match-up with the Steelers at 6-1?
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