NFL Hall of Fame Game: Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints
NFL football is back! Well, sort of. The preseason kicks off with the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton on Sunday, a game that was canceled last year because of the lengthy lockout. The Cardinals and Saints are the opponents this year and the Saints are 3-point favorites on WagerWeb.com. The game kicks off at 8 p.m. ET time on the NFL Network.
The Saints are no doubt ready to get back on the field after the bounty scandal rocked the team this offseason. The Saints won’t have head coach Sean Payton or star linebacker Jonathan Vilma all season. Assistant Joe Vitt, who will fill in for Payton this season, has to sit out the first six regular-season games but is with the team in the preseason.
The Saints also had a contentious negotiation with superstar QB Drew Brees before finally committing $40 million guaranteed to the face of the franchise and NFL single-season record holder for passing yards. Brees also has been very outspoken recently in his criticism of commissioner Roger Goodell for his handling of the bounty issue. Brees paints the Saints as the victim of a botched investigation by the league. Right or wrong, the team is using that belief as its prime motivator.
Brees and the vast majority of the starters on both sides probably will only play a few series at most. Not only do the Saints have to adjust to not having Payton, who is the team’s offensive coordinator, but they also have to deal with a new defensive coordinator in former Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have a quarterback battle going on in camp. As of now, Kevin Kolb, who was acquired via trade from Philly before last season and got a big contract, is atop the depth chart and will start Sunday. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has not indicated whether Kolb or John Skelton has the edge in the competition for Arizona’s starting quarterback job, stating that he will make his decision over the course of training camp.
Kolb was 2-6 as a starter last year, missing much of the season with turf toe and later a concussion. Skelton was 6-2 in his absence, but much of the credit for that success goes to the team’s vastly improved defense.
Playing well in the preseason opener would help give Kolb an advantage heading into the rest of training camp. Arizona gave up a second-round pick and a talented cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to land Kolb and thus wants to see its investment in him pay off. But if he plays poorly Sunday and Skelton looks good, then all bets are off. This will also be the first chance for Cardinals fans to get a glimpse of rookie receiver Michael Floyd, a first-round pick from Notre Dame.