1. New Orleans coach Sean Payton has taken some heat for giving his team almost all of last week off. The critics say Payton should have had his team practicing more because the Saints have no momentum after losing their last three games of the regular season. So what? I think the break was a good idea. The Saints were banged up and probably mentally drained after a season in which there was lots of pressure as they were winning their first 13 games. They had some injured guys that needed rest. Their healthy guys needed rest too. The Saints are going to be refreshed for this game, which is more than you can say about the Cardinals after their shootout against the Packers and a short week.
2. Cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter are healthy after missing a lot of the second half of the season with injuries. That’s great news because the defense wasn’t nearly as good once Porter and Greer went down. But just having them back isn’t going to solve all of New Orleans’ defensive problems, especially with Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and company coming to town. It’s not easy to shut down Arizona’s passing game even when you have good cover guys. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is going to have to get back to his aggressive approach from early in the season and send a lot of blitzes at Warner. The Arizona quarterback isn’t very mobile and a strong pass rush could help the New Orleans secondary from being stuck too long in coverage.
3. Say all you want about the defensive problems New Orleans had over the last couple months. I’m more concerned about the offense. Forget the season finale against Carolina because the Saints weren’t playing quarterback Drew Brees and most of their starters. But the two games before that were losses to Tampa Bay and Dallas and the Saints were held to 17 points in each of those games. They won’t win in the playoffs unless the offense is a lot more prolific. This game with Arizona is shaping up as an offensive shootout and the Saints have to get back to playing the kind of offense that can outscore anybody.