Five to Watch: Cards vs. Saints

The Cardinals and Saints meet on Sunday in a do-or-die game for both teams. Arizona looks to avoid its second losing streak of the season. Here are five things to watch out for on game day.

1. RB Aaron Stecker: Starting for injured RB Reggie Bush, Stecker had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season last week. Usually considered no more than a third-down back, Stecker has been thrust into the starting lineup due to the absence of Bush and former Pro Bowler Deuce McAllister. Stecker will need another good day running the ball to keep the Cardinals defense honest.

2) Kurt Warner: The team with the fewest turnovers is usually wins the game. For Warner and the Cardinals, this mantra couldn't be more true. Last week against Seattle, Warner threw a career-high five interceptions and the Cardinals fell to the Seahawks, 42-21. In the Cardinals' last three losses, Warner has thrown a total of nine picks. In their last three wins, he's only thrown two. The Saints secondary has proven to be vulnerable this season and Warner has proven that he can still make defenses pay when he is given time to make good decisions.

3) Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin: The Cardinals top two receivers have been hampered by injuries as of late. As a result, the Cardinals offense has been less effective. Boldin missed last week's game due to injury and Fitzgerald missed the game before that. Good news for the Cardinals is that both are expected to play on Sunday. The question is: how effective will they be? The last time Boldin and Fitzgerald were on the field together, Warner threw for 484 yards.

4) Kicking Game: Both teams have had their issues in the kicking game. Neil Rackers, normally an extremely reliable kicker, has missed some clutch field goals this season (Washington, San Francisco). New Orleans has had it's trouble, too, with newly acquired Olindo Mare out for the rest of the season with a hip injury. Prior to the injury, he was connecting on a career-low 58.8 percent of his attempts. The Saints will turn to veteran Martin Gramatica, a Pro Bowler in 2001, to handle the kicking duties. Gramatica hasn't kicked since last season, when he took over for Mike Vanderjagt in Dallas. Gramatica is not the kicker he once was but showed last year that he can still play. His ability to convert could be the difference between the Saints making the playoffs, or watching them on TV.

5) Cardinals' Secondary: The Arizona secondary needs a huge game. Drew Brees has been on a tear and has thrown at least two touchdowns in each of his last four games. Marques Colston has been the beneficiary of many of Brees' passes and has really evolved into a big time No. 1 receiver. Matching up against him will be Antrel Rolle. Rolle has enjoyed a good season so far, with three interceptions and six passes defended. All three of his interceptions, however, were courtesy of Carson Palmer in the Cardinals victory over the Bengals a few weeks ago. If Rolle and Roderick Hood can shut down Colston and force Brees to rely on his depleted supporting cast, the game could shift in the Cardinals favor.

Brad Vipperman is a reporter for the Scout.com network. He is an accomplished sports writer, with recent work appearing on www.hoopswriters.com.


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