The New Orleans Saints return home after two straight road games this afternoon to host the Arizona Cardinals. The Saints enter this game with a 6-1 record and winners of five straight, all without injured quarterback Drew Brees. The Cardinals come into the game with a 3-3-1 mark, but boast a three game winning streak themselves. This is the 31st game between the Saints and the Cardinals franchise, with both teams winning 15 of the previous contests. New Orleans does own an 8-4 advantage over the Cardinals at home, and have defeated Arizona the last four times they've played in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
The Cardinals franchise was one of the original NFL teams in 1920, known then as the Chicago Cardinals. They moved to St. Louis in 1960, where they would remain until moving to Phoenix, Arizona in 1988. The Saints would be 5-10 against the St. Louis Cardinals, losing the first three times they'd play and dropping 8 of their first 10 games against them. The first meeting between the two franchises was in the Saints inaugural season of 1967 on December 3 in St. Louis. New Orleans would force five St. Louis turnovers on the day, but couldn't do enough offensively themselves in a 31-20 loss. The two would be in the same division for one year, when the Saints were moved to the NFL's Century Division in 1968. The first time they'd meet the Cardinals at home would be on September 29 of that season. New Orleans would hold a lead throughout the game that day, and outgain St. Louis 323-219 in total yardage. A 4th quarter touchdown run by the Cardinals' Willis Crenshaw however, would give St. Louis a 21-20 win.
New Orleans would finally defeat the Cardinals on November 2, 1969 in St. Louis. The Saints had started that season 0-6, but rolled up 508 yards during a shootout. New Orleans quarterback Billy Kilmer threw for 345 yards and six touchdown passes, and the Saints held on for a 51-42 victory. Kilmer's 6 passing scores were a franchise record that stood until 2015, when current Saints quarterback Drew Brees tossed 7 scores in a victory over the New York Giants. New Orleans would finally get a home win over the Cardinals on December 8, 1974 in Tulane Stadium. There was no shootout this time, as a defensive battle would end with a 14-0 Saints win. It would be the only shutout in the 30 game history between the Saints and Cardinals. That would also be the final home game the Saints would play at Tulane, moving into the Superdome the following season. They wouldn't face the Cardinals under the dome until the 1980 season though. On October 5 of that year, the Saints offense was held to a pathetic 80 yards and 3 first downs as they were pounded by St. Louis 40-7.
The Cardinals would move to Arizona after the 1987 season, playing as the Phoenix Cardinals until 1993 and Arizona Cardinals since. The Saints are 10-5 against the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, including a 5-1 home record against them. They wouldn't play the Cardinals under the dome after their relocation though until September 23, 1990. The Saints would lose their first two contests to begin that year, but got 99 yards rushing and three touchdowns from running back Rueben Mayes in a 28-7 win. Phoenix would defeat the Saints the next time they'd meet in New Orleans, outgaining them 432 yards to 218 in a 28-7 victory early in the 1996 season. It would be the last time the Cardinals would notch a win in the Superdome. After a 1997 win over the the Cards in the Dome, New Orleans would play the Cardinals in Arizona the next three times they'd meet, not hosting them again until the 2007 season.
Saints coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees joined the Saints in 2006. They are 4-2 against Arizona, and 3-0 against them at home. The first time they would face the Cardinals would be a home meeting on December 16, 2007. Brees would complete 26 of his 30 pass attempts that day for 315 yards and 2 touchdowns. Eight of those passes were to receiver Marques Colston, who went for 114 yards and scored once in the 31-24 Saints victory.
The Saints and Cardinals would have their only postseason meeting in a divisional playoff match up on January 16, 2010 in New Orleans. Brees would throw for 247 yards and three scores, but Saints running back Reggie Bush was the game's most dynamic star. Bush had 217 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns on only 10 touches in-play. Bush's eye-popping 46-yd. scoring run gave his team momentum in the first period, and his explosive 83-yd. punt return score put the finishing touches on a 45-14 New Orleans playoff victory. Late in the game, Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner was knocked out of the game with a concussion suffered after throwing an interception. The game would turn out to be the last of Warner's Hall of Fame career. The Saints meanwhile, used this victory to springboard them to a victory in Super Bowl XLIV over the Indianapolis Colts. Arizona would gain a small measure of payback in Arizona on October 10th of the 2010 season, when two fourth quarter touchdowns by the Cardinals defense clinched a 30-20 victory.
The last time the Saints and Cardinals met in New Orleans was on September 22, 2013. Brees threw for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns, while rushing for another score. Two of his touchdown tosses went to tight end Jimmy Graham, who caught 9 passes for 134 yards. The New Orleans defense held Arizona to 247 yards as they rolled 31-7. These teams would last face off was on December 18, 2016 in Arizona. Brees riddled the Cardinals secondary yet again, this time for 389 yards and four scores. Two of those went to wideout Brandin Cooks, who caught 7 passes for 186 yards as the Saints prevailed in a 48-41 shootout.
Brees has eclipsed 300 yards passing in four of the six games he has played the Cardinals as quarterback of the Saints, throwing 15 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions. The future Hall of Famer has missed the last five games though, while recovering from thumb surgery. Multiple sources have now reported that Brees will make his return to the lineup for the first time since week two. He will be without dynamic running back Alvin Kamara though, who is sidelined by a high ankle sprain and knee injury.
Brees also won't have starting tight end Jared Cook or wideout Tre'Quan Smith, who are each out with ankle injuries. He does however, still have the best receiver in the game in Michael Thomas, who leads the league in both receptions and receiving yardage. Running back Latavius Murray was extremely productive against a respected Bears defense a week ago as well, and the New Orleans offensive line has been pulverizing opponents for their rushing attack and as pass blockers. Brees is a master at spreading the ball around, and the line should be able to control the game for balance against a 28th ranked Arizona defense.
The Saints defense has been playing at an elite level, shutting down opposing rushing games and bottling up the passing attack with a devastating defensive line and suffocating coverage. New Orleans should be able to heavily pressure Arizona rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, and shut down their running game that will be without injured back David Johnson. The Saints will disguise their coverage packages in hopes of confusing Murray and creating turnovers. The Cardinals come in with a three game winning streak. It was against the Bengals, Falcons, and Giants though; teams who have a combined 3-18 record. They now face a powerhouse New Orleans team that has outplayed their opponents in every phase of the game.