The 2021-22 NFL regular season in is the books, and the NFL playoffs are underway. Unfortunately for the New Orleans Saints, the season ended on January 9, 2022, and our eyes now turn to the 2022-23 NFL season.
The Saints’ opponents for next regular season as well as the games’ venues have now all been disclosed, with the only missing information being the dates and times of the games. So, we now know that the Saints’ 2022 home opponents will as expected, include their division rivals (Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers). In addition, New Orleans will face the Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders and Minnesota Vikings. If you counted with me, yes, the Saints have nine home games in 2022. It remains to be seen whether one of these games will be played on a neutral site (such as London).
As we are in this new 17-game format in the NFL regular season, the Saints will play eight games on the road in 2022, their three divisional opponents as is customary, plus the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.
In this top 10, we will focus on the appeal of the matchup. With most NFL squads far from being finalized for 2022, it would be difficult to assess all individual matchups at this point. However, we look at factors such as: teams that the Saints do not play very often, or teams that have prominent players with ties to either the Saints or the state of Louisiana.
At Number 10 in our matchups countdown was the game between the Saints and the Browns, which you can read about here.
Today we focus on:
Number 9: The Arizona Cardinals (Road)
Another road opponent for the Saints in 2022, the Arizona Cardinals finished the 2021 NFL regular season with an 11-6 record and made the playoffs as a Wild Card team. They were then promptly dispatched into the offseason in the first round by the Los Angeles Rams, in a 34-11 thrashing where quarterback Kyler Murray looked lost and scared in his first-ever playoff appearance. Despite finishing the season by losing five of their final six games (including the playoffs), the Cardinals looked like the best team in the NFL for a long stretch when they raced out to a 10-2 record. Kyler Murray, the twitchy diminutive quarterback was an MVP candidate for 12 games until he and the Cardinals seemingly hit a wall late in the year. What this mean is that depending on when the Saints play the Cardinals in the 2022 season, this could be a much tougher game if played early in the year, when a smaller quarterback like Murray is not yet banged up.
The history between the New Orleans Saints and the Arizona Cardinals is an interesting one: New Orleans holds a 16-15 all-time series lead, with one of the Saints’ 16 wins being one of the most important games in franchise history: it was The Bat Game, on January 16, 2010, in the Superdome. The Saints met the Cardinals in the divisional round of the playoffs that day, and Sean Payton had placed bats in each of the players’ lockers to remind them just how physical they had to be to win that day. Let’s just say that the message was well-received: The Saints crushed the Cardinals 45-14, while pummeling then-quarterback Kurt Warner, and en route to their second-ever NFC Championship Game. The game was also the only time the Saints and Cardinals have met in the playoffs, so the team have an even 15-15 record in 30 regular season meetings.
The Saints have a 7-11 all-time record against the Cardinals in Arizona, and New Orleans finished the 2021 regular season 6-3 on the road. On the other hand, the Cardinals were 3-5 at home in 2021, a record that shows that their home-field advantage is not very significant.
In terms of challenges, Dennis Allen’s Saints defense has had a hard time when playing against running quarterbacks like Kyler Murray, as evidenced by their struggles against Jalen Hurts of the Eagles and to a certain extent, Dak Prescott of the Cowboys. Arizona also features one of the very best wide receivers in the NFL in Deandre Hopkins, whom Kyler Murray missed dearly as Hopkins was hurt for a large part of the second half of the 2021 season.
Defensively, the Cardinals have some talent, headlined by safety Budda Baker, a 26-year-old hitting machine who is one of the best young safeties in the league. As a unit however, they are an above average defense that can cause some problems to a Saints’ offense that looked average-to-bad during the 2021 season.
In the last meeting between the two teams, the Saints shut down a rookie Kyler Murray in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 27, 2019, with New Orleans winning 31-9. The Saints’ defense held the young phenom quarterback without a touchdown and sacked him three times. Murray would still go on to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, highlighting the quality of the Saints’ defensive play in that game. For the trivia: Drew Brees completed 34 of 43 passes that day (79% completion) for 373 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Remember those days when the Saints had a Hall-of-Famer at quarterback?
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