For this week's edition of Thursday Night Football, we've got two NFC teams off to disappointing 2-4 starts.
The Arizona Cardinals play host to the New Orleans Saints in Week 7, as Kyler Murray and Co. look to get themselves back on track now that star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is set to return. The Saints will be starting Andy Dalton at quarterback for this contest, and they're dealing with a hellacious number of injuries at the moment. Will they be able to overcome, or will they succumb?
Which of these two teams will pull back to within a game of .500, and which will take an even further tumble in the standings? We'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, here's how you can watch the game on Thursday evening.
How to watch
When the Saints have the ball
The name of the game here is injuries. The Saints will be without wide receivers Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry, tight end Adam Trautman, and guard Andrus Peat, and that's in addition to wideout Deonte Harty joining tackle Trevor Penning on injured reserve.
We know Alvin Kamara will be heavily involved. We know Mark Ingram II will mix in on the ground. We know Chris Olave, expected back from the concussion that kept him out of New Orleans' Week 6 game, will get all the work he can handle in the passing game. Beyond that, though, it's anybody's guess -- at least from the Saints perspective.
But we also know the Cardinals defense has been susceptible to pretty much everything opposing offenses have thrown at them, but especially to the pass. The Cardinals check in 24th in pass defense DVOA at Football Outsiders, 28th on throws over the middle of the field, 29th on short passes, and 32nd on passes to running backs. All that points to a potentially big receiving game for Kamara, who has six catches in each of the last two contests after hauling in only five in his first two games combined.
When the Cardinals have the ball
Arizona's offense is very much in flux at the moment.
Marquise Brown has been Kyler Murray's top target this season, but he's now out for an extended period after sustaining a foot injury on a meaningless play in last week's game. Center Rodney Hudson is out and guard Justin Pugh is now on injured reserve. Running back James Conner is listed as questionable but did not practice all week, and Darrel Williams is out.
DeAndre Hopkins is back from his suspension but also hasn't been in the facility since the preseason. The Cardinals traded for Robbie Anderson earlier this week but it's highly unlikely that he's fully up-to-speed on the offense just yet. Eno Benjamin seems likely to lead the backfield again, and both Rondale Moore and Zach Ertz figure to be heavily involved as short-area targets for Murray -- who may need to target those areas more often due to the various issues along the offensive line.
The Cardinals have been a significant disappointment on offense so far this season. Some of that is attributable to the absence of Hopkins. Some of it is due to the injuries the team has dealt with. But a lot of is boils down to the team's offensive plan, which either does not exist or is simply "Kyler, go do something" far too often. Kliff Kingsbury had in the past shown an ability to scheme his way into an efficient run game by spreading the field and getting his backs north and south, but even that has gone by the wayside this year. Meanwhile, the pass game has been off-kilter all year. With the exception of the plays where Murray just makes magic happen, things have been ugly.
The New Orleans defense has not been as underwhelming as has the Arizona offense, but it's certainly not lived up to lofty expectations. The Saints rank just 18th in defensive DVOA, 21st against the pass and 14th against the run. They're 19th in yards per play, 20th in yards per drive, and 15th in EPA per play. This team needs the defense to be an elite unit, and it's been a merely average on so far.
Losing Marcus Williams on the back end didn't help, but this is also just an older unit now. Guys like Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, Tyrann Mathieu and more are still quality starters, but not quite as good as they were in recent seasons. (And Mathieu has been flat-out not good at times this year.) That little bit of slip-up matters when the margin for error is as small as it is for the Saints at the moment. They'll have to ramp up the pressure rate against Murray while also not allowing him to break contain to have defensive success in this matchup.
Prediction: Cardinals 23, Saints 17