Thursday Night Football NFL Picks — Saints prepare ground forces for clash with Cards

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Saints Come in Banged up Against the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football in the NFL

By Charles Jay

Week 7 of the NFL Kicks off with Thursday Night Football in the NFL. Both the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints expected better than to be sitting with 2-4 records at this point in the season. But the Cards have been losing games even with quarterback Kyler Murray healthy.

On Thursday night these two teams will face each other, and both of them have some ground to make up in their respective divisions.

BetOnline customers can tune in to the game on Amazon Prime Video, with the kickoff at 8:15 PM ET at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ.

The Saints have had some difficulty finding a successor to Drew Brees at quarterback. Jameis Winston was assumed to be that guy, and that still might happen. But he’s been hurt a lot, and is not expected to make the start. Instead, it looks like Andy Dalton, the veteran who has shuffled around from team to team.

Does Dalton conduct enough in the way of film study? That was Arizona GM Steve Keim’s gripe with Kyler Murray in the off-season as they were negotiating an extension. In fact, he made more of it mandatory in Murray’s deal. That set off a bit of a firestorm, but it was telling. And it told us that not all was tranquil in the relationship.

DeAndre Hopkins began the season on suspension, and he is just now eligible to return. But fellow wideout Marquise Brown is out for a spell. The Cardinals have reached out and traded for malcontent Robbie Anderson, who had apparently worn out his welcome in Carolina.

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Thursday Night NFL Picks — Here are the numbers…

In the odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetOnline, the Cardinals are the favorites:

Arizona Cardinals -2.5 (-114)
New Orleans Saints +2.5 (-106)

Over 43.5 Points -115
Under 43.5 Points -105

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Thursday Night NFL Picks — Let’s talk about the Cardinals

This team has averaged only 5.3 yards per offensive play, and that is the worst figure in the NFL. It is certainly not something Kliff Kingsbury envisioned when he brought his “Air Raid” philosophy to the desert. Part of the non-explosiveness of the passing attack (Murray is averaging 5.8 yards per attempt) involves the absence of Hopkins, who is usually a difference-maker. Now he’s back. That’s good news. But he couldn’t practice until now. So we question how much of an impact he’ll actually make.

The same goes for Anderson, who had a “me, me, me” moment last week as Carolina was losing to the Rams, arguing with receiver coach Joe Dailey about not getting the ball enough. The interim “get tough” coach, Steve Wilks (whose firing as head coach in Arizona led to Kingsbury’s hiring), had no patience for that, and Anderson was dealt away the next day.

The top receiver on this roster, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, is out with a foot injury, and may be back in a month or so. So tight end Zach Ertz may be handling heavier duty.

Thursday Night NFL Picks — Let’s talk about the Saints

The decision as to who starts at quarterback was supposed to be of the “game time” variety. But Winston’s back injury may prevent him from going. Dalton is capable of “managing” this game, as long as the Saints can rely on their ground game. One of the weaknesses of Dalton’s game is that he is susceptible to being sacked. But that’s only happened to him four times in three starts. And with only interception, there’s a chance New Orleans can play “keep away” with the ball.

There are few teams in the league that runs the ball with more efficiency than New Orleans; they are ranked second in the NFL in the category of “Average Line Yards” and first in power rushing according to Football Outsiders, a well-respected analytics site. In other words, they can move it on the ground and keep defenses honest.

Not only is there Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, there is also the “change of pace” the Saints can throw at the opposition in the form of Taysom Hill, who can do just about everything and is averaging over ten yards per carry.

Thursday Night NFL Picks — So what’s the verdict?

We have to consider a few things here. One is that the Saints are the team getting points in this game.

And then we come to the question of whether the wrong team might be favored. Remember that the Cardinals have lost EIGHT consecutive games at State Farm Stadium, who what discernible “home field advantage” could there possibly be?

Add to that the very real possibility that Murray is overrated, and has not been productive. And that he will not have a full contribution from the new additions to the receiving corps, with the short practice week. The Cards can’t seem to get out of their own way to begin things, as they’ve been outscored 41-3 in the first quarter. And then of course, there’s the Saints ground game we’ve already referred to.

On the fundamentals, I don’t see any other way to go but with the underdog Saints.

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Dirty has been an employee or owner of some of the top online sports gambling forums since 1998. He worked at EOG.com from it's inception until 2008 when he left and opened GamblingIQ and then in 2012 opened Handicappers Hidaway. He has written hundreds af articles over the years and always has his "Dirty Dozen" College Football poll up starting the first week of October.
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