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Week 1 Preview: Saints at Cardinals

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New Orleans Saints (0-0) at Arizona Cardinals (0-0)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver

*Keys to the game: Expect some early rust from the Saints. Several key players were dealing with injuries and the team limited the snaps of many of their key offensive personnel during the preseason. Expect to see plenty of RB Mark Ingram early as coach Sean Payton attempts to improve the protection in front of QB Drew Brees, who was under constant duress last season. Having versatile big-play threat Brandin Cooks healthy will certainly help combat an aggressive pass rush.

The Cardinals brought in Chris Johnson and rookie bulldozer David Johnson to share the backfield load with oft-injured Andre Ellington, but QB Carson Palmer is healthy and will be champing at the bit to take aim at the Saints’ secondary. New Orleans was minus FS Jairus Byrd for the entire preseason and his availability is uncertain, CB Keenan Lewis (hip) is unlikely to play and CB Brandon Browner and SS Kenny Vaccaro missed the final three preseason games. If the Saints are unable to pressure Palmer into mistakes, the secondary will be ripe for the picking.

*Matchup to watch – Saints LDE Akiem Hicks vs. Cardinals RT Earl Watford: Primarily a guard, Watford appears set to start in place of suspended Bobby Massie after Bradley Sowell and first-round pick D.J. Humphries were tried at the spot. Hicks has a modest 6.5 sacks through 45 career games, but must make his presence felt against a vulnerable spot to help protect that secondary.

*Player spotlight – Saints FS Jairus Byrd: He missed all but three games last season and all of training camp, but hope remained he may play in the opener after veteran Kenny Phillips was released. He would be a welcome boost to an already depleted secondary.

*Fast facts: Cooks is the only one of the Saints’ six draft picks from 2014 on the active roster. They entered the week with 11 rookies on their active roster … The Cardinals carried just three cornerbacks on their initial 53-man roster, although FS Tyrann Mathieu can also play corner.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Saints are a largely unknown commodity following a massive offseason facelift, and the defense is still a big question mark despite plenty of turnover. Cardinals QB Carson Palmer makes a productive return from his knee injury – as long as that patchwork offensive line holds up reasonably well.

*Our pick: Cardinals 27-21


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