|Dwight Freeney has bolstered an already talented defense Mandatory Credit USA Today Sports|
Green Bay Packers Overview
They limped into the playoffs on a two game losing streak (including an 8-38 demolishing by these Arizona Cardinals). Certainly they’d lose to a Washington team that was riding the wave of a four game winning streak. Then the playoffs started, and Aaron Rodgers looked like Aaron Rodgers again. He led the Packers to the most points they’ve scored since September, and the offense finally looked like something resembling a Mike McCarthy-coached squad. Have the Packers found themselves at the exact right moment, or did they just beat up on a team that sucked a little less in the NFC East?
Arizona Cardinals Overview
The Cardinals were as good and impressive as anyone in the League this season. According to pro-football-reference.com, Arizona allowed the 7th fewest points in the NFL while scoring the second most. They have a litany of stars at their offensive skill positions; Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown are all viable threats at the wide receiver position. After a productive Chris Johnson went down with a fractured tibia, RB David Johnson took his place and has been even more dynamic. As for the quarterback position, if it weren’t for Cam Newton, Carson Palmer would have a serious chance at the MVP; and if not for DB Tyrann Mathieu going down late in the season with a torn ACL, their defense would be just as star-studded. With Cincinnati exiting the playoffs, the Cardinals have the most talent of any team left standing.
Green Bay Offense vs Arizona Defense
Green Bay was able to protect Rodgers more than it had in previous games, keeping him upright for all but one possession. What’s more, Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and (surprise!) wide receiver-turned-running back Randall Cobb combined for 140 yards on 29 carries. The balanced attack was too much for Washington, which had only given up 35+ points once all season. It certainly looked like the offense was back to pre Jordy Nelson injury days.
Arizona’s defense is scary good. Their secondary, which took a hit when Honey Badger went down, still has Patrick Peterson to cover; they finished fourth in interceptions. Their glaring weakness, the pass rush, was bolstered by the midseason acquisition of Dwight Freeney. Freeney finished the season with eight sacks. Between Freeney and Pro Bowler Calais Campbell, Rodgers will face a much scarier pass rush than he saw in Washington.
|Fitzgerald eclipsed 1000 yards again, this time primarily from the slot. Mandatory credit Getty Images|
Green Bay Defense vs Arizona Offense
Green Bay’s defense was largely in the middle of the pack in terms of points and yards allowed per game. For years, the defense has only needed to be solid while the offense carried them to glory. This season, they’ve moved Clay Matthews around to try and capitalize off of their lone defensive star. Arizona is so talented on offense that it’s hard to believe that the Packers could slow them down.
Perhaps one might think the Packers will blitz in an effort to force Palmer to make errant throws and turn the ball over, except Palmer has been great against the blitz all season. With playmakers all over the field, the decided advantage goes to the Cardinals. They hung 38 points on the Packers last game; I can’t see a reason why they wouldn’t duplicate that dominance.
Outcome: The Packers had a resurgent game against Washington, they should hold onto that memory Saturday because it’s going to get ugly in Arizona. 27-10 Cardinals.
Line: Arizona -7