Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

Our experts, Amberly Dressler of AZ Red Report and senior NFL reporter Adam Caplan, go Behind Enemy Lines to begin their analysis of Saturday's matchup between the Cardinals and the Saints in New Orleans. Why did the Saints end the season on a three-game slump? Who is the Saints X-factor? Which team really holds the advantage? That and much more inside.

Amberly Dressler: The New Orleans Saints were one of the most talked about teams in the regular season. They went 13-0 before losing their final three matchups (Dallas, Tampa Bay and Carolina). What led to the slump? Do you think the first-round bye was enough to revert them back to their winning ways?

Adam Caplan: The big problem they had was on defense because of injuries to all three levels of their defense. Starting DT Sedrick Ellis missed significant playing time, as did starting SLB Scott Fujita and their top three cornerbacks. So, their defense really has regressed a little because of the injuries. The time off should help.

AD: You ended your season-long NFL team rankings with the Saints as the No. 2 team (behind Indianapolis), what's impressed you most about the Saints this season? And what adjustments need to be made before facing the Cardinals?

Drew Brees

AC: They have arguably the NFL's best offense and passing game. To keep that going, they must protect starting QB Drew Brees better. They have a problem at left tackle. Jermon Bushrod, who is filling in for Jammal Brown, has not play well of late. The coaches may want to start to use an extra blocker on his side to help against the Cardinals' 3-4 zone blitz concepts.

AD: From a stats standpoint, both the Saints pass and rush defense don't seem too daunting. Kurt Warner and his receiving unit can terrorize a shaky secondary. How or who do you expect to contain the likes of Larry Fitzgerald & Co.? Or do I have it wrong, is this defense underrated?

AC: The problem they've had of late is the injuries in the secondary have prevented defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from being aggressive has he would have liked. That should change with all four starters expected to be available for this week's game. And they should be healthy in the front-seven, save for starting DE Charles Grant, who was placed on injured reserve last week. That's a big loss as he's a good run defender and a decent pass rusher.

AD: On the offensive side of the ball, the Saints can pass the ball just as well the Cardinals can. Where the Saints have the edge is the running game (ranked sixth in the league). Which back should the Cardinals be most worried about and why?

AC: Probably Pierre Thomas because of his versatility, but the Saints will use all three of their top backs. Mike Bell will be used as an in between the tackles runner and Reggie Bush will be used as a receiver out of the backfield. It will be interesting to see how head coach Sean Payton uses all three backs in this game, meaning does he change up their roles at all?

AD: Who is the Saints most unheralded player? What contributions will he make on Saturday?

Robert Meachem

AC: Good question. Probably WR Robert Meachem. He's been handling the No. 3 role in the absence of Lance Moore of late. Moore is expected to play, however. Meachem offers good size at the position and he moves really well. He'll give the Cardinals secondary a problem when he's in the game because they are thin back there on depth.

AD: As's Senior NFL Reporter, you watch more teams than anyone. Realistically, what do you think each team's advantages are? Who do you see moving on?

AC: Saints have a small advantage probably on defense because their secondary is probably a little better and deeper. They also can attack the Cardinal defense on the ground and can spread them out if need be.

Arizona also can spread out the Saint secondary because they are deep at receiver, even if starter Anquan Boldin can't play.

I think this will be a high-scoring game in which both teams will attack the secondary. You'll see a lot of three and four-receiver sets in this game.

Picking Saints, 34-27.

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