Two of the NFC’s favorites will face each other in Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season. The New Orleans Saints, expected to win the NFC South, and the Arizona Cardinals, a favorite in the very strong West division, will match up with each other on the league’s first Sunday. Head coach Bruce Arians has quietly put together one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the NFL taking the Cardinals to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009. Arians was named the league’s Coach of the Year as a result. What is even more impressive about the Cardinals success last year is that they did it playing three quarterbacks. Hopefully, they don’t have to do that again. Carson Palmer returns healthy after a knee injury ended his 2014 season prematurely. Even with a healthy Palmer behind center, New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals odds only favor the home team by just a field goal (-2½) with the over/under total at 48.
Looking past the season opener, Arians and the Cardinals will need Palmer to stay healthy because the drop-off to No. 2 QB Drew Stanton is noticeable. Arizona upgraded the offensive line by adding Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati to help ensure that Palmer plays all 16 games. Running back Andre Ellington returns after an injury as well and the Arizona running game will also help take pressure off of Palmer and the passing game. The Cardinals finished 31st in rush offense last year, something that will need to improve if they are to contend with Seattle for the NFC West title. For those looking to bet on New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals odds, it is important to note that Vegas currently has 62% of the NFL picks for week 1 taking the Cards laying the points at home.
In New Orleans, Drew Brees returns for his 15th NFL season. He and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing yards last year with 4,952. Brees also threw for 33 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. He lost his number one target in TE Jimmy Graham in free agency, but has one of the most unheralded groups of receivers in the league. Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, and Nick Toon give Brees ample targets in the passing game. The Saints beat Arizona, 31-7, the last time the two teams met back in 2013. Arians has the Cardinals on a different level now, which will make a New Orleans victory even tougher this time around. The week 1 season opener (Sunday, September 13th) between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals can be seen live on FOX at 4:05pm EST from the University of Phoenix Stadium.
The New Orleans Saints have had two mediocre seasons in the past three including last years’ 7-9 campaign in which New Orleans forgot how to play defense. After hiring defensive coordinator Rob Ryan prior to last season, the Saints finished No. 4 in total defense only to fall to 31st last season. The defense will have to get better if New Orleans is to reach the postseason once again. That being said, NFL odds have listed the Saints as +225 longshots to win the NFC South, +1800 to win the NFC Conference and +3300 in Super Bowl predictions to hoist the Lombardi trophy once again. Head coach Sean Payton and the Saints front office believes they have taken the necessary steps to shore up the defense. Payton brought in Dennis Allen, the former Raiders head coach, to assist Ryan with the defense.
The club signed cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Kyle Wilson and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Anthony Spencer in the offseason. The New Orleans Saints also went defense-heavy in this year’s draft using five picks including a first-rounder on Stephone Anthony, a 6-3, 243-pound linebacker from Clemson. The resurgence starts with the defensive line where fourth-year DE Akiem Hicks and running mate Cameron Jordan need to rebound from a so-so season last year. Junior Galette was the team’s best pass rusher with 10 sacks. Jordan finished with 7.5. Whatever Ryan and Allen can put together is likely to be better than the output seen last season. Offensively, any time you have Drew Brees under center, you’ve got a chance. Brees enters his 15th NFL season, coming off of one in which he led the league (tied with Pittsburgh’s Ben Rothliesberger) in passing yards with 4,952. He threw for 33 touchdowns and was the key to the NFL’s No. 1 offense.
This year though, Brees will have to do it without Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham. The Saints traded Graham to the Seahawks for veteran center Max Unger and a first-round draft pick. It’s not as if the well is dry on offense. New Orleans added RB C.J. Spiller, drafted giant tackle Andrus Peat (6-7, 313) out of Stanford, and still have receivers Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks. The Saints should still be one of the league’s best offenses. With an improved defense, New Orleans will contend for the 2015 NFC South title and a trip to the postseason. In terms of Super Bowl predictions, the schedule is a favorable one but Brees and the Saints will have to be more consistent and avoid traps like the three-game skid they suffered last season, one that cost them a division title.
Saints Update (9/9/15): New Orleans are now +4000 favorites in Super Bowl predictions, +2200 to win the NFC Conference and +175 to win the NFC South.