METAIRIE, La. – Carl Nicks has never played in the playoffs.
So he doesn’t necessarily understand the pressure that comes along with playing in the postseason.
That’s not something he has a problem with, either.
“It’s so new. We can do just like Arizona did (last year),” said Nicks, a second-year pro from Nebraska said. “Even though we’re not in that exact situation, a lot of guys are new to it. We’re fresh. We’re young. We don’t know any better – might as well go all in.”
Indeed, last year’s Cardinals could prove to be a good example the Saints (13-3) try to emulate.
As a franchise in Arizona (11-6), the Cardinals only had one previous playoff berth since the team moved there from St. Louis in 1988. That came in 1998, before a lot of those players were in the NFL or even high school.
But despite playing poor football down the stretch, losing games by 28, 21 and 40 points in the final five weeks, Arizona played its way into the Super Bowl, coming within a toe-tapping catch in the end zone of winning it.
Playoff experience? Whatever.
“Last year, the one thing about our team was that we were a young team and I don’t think we knew any better,” Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner said. “And I think that’s what helped us out. We didn’t get caught up with too much. We didn’t let anything really phase us. We didn’t get overwhelmed with too much. Our guys stayed loose.
“I think that was a reason we were able to have the success we were able to have even though a lot of guys haven’t been in that situation.”
For the Saints, about half the roster has been in a postseason game, but only 11 were on the New Orleans team that made it to the NFC Championship game after the 2006 season.
Additionally, in the same 21 years since Arizona moved to the West Coast, the Saints only have six playoff appearances.
Still, at the position that matters most, the Saints can take some comfort. Quarterback Drew Brees has played in three playoff games – two with New Orleans and once with San Diego.
“I definitely feel like it’s an advantage,” said Brees, who talked of the calming factor veterans bring to the field.
He added, “Certainly, there’s always some young guys that haven’t been in this situation. And you have to calm their emotions a little bit, because I think the tendency is to get caught up in the hype and the atmosphere and at times, it’s just another game, it’s the next game.”
But that factor can work against the Saints this season, as well. Arizona comes in with Warner, who is 9-3 in the playoffs and has won a Super Bowl MVP award in his 12 years in the league.
And that’s something Saints veteran quarterback Mark Brunell said can help out the Cardinals, who come in as a seven-point underdog.
“In his situation, he has had a lot of experience and a lot of success in playoffs,” Brunell said. “Him as the starting quarterback, that brings a lot of comfort to a team, a lot of confidence knowing that their leader has been there before, won an NFL championships. That does a lot for a team.”