Early Bird Breakdown Week 16: Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals
Hello and welcome back to Early Bird Breakdown! This week Green Bay travels to Arizona for a tough match against the 12-2 Cardinals. But first, let’s look back at the recap for last week.
Last week Green Bay’s defense led the Packers to victory by generating a couple of interceptions, one leading to a touchdown the other returned all the way for a touchdown. After this point though, the Packers offense sputtered and Oakland was able to claw its way back into the game and close the lead to one point before halftime. Despite Oakland out gaining Green Bay by 79 yards, the early turnovers that gave Green Bay the lead and they were able to hold on to win 30-20.
Packers’ Offense vs Cardinals’ Defense:
The Packers have a very difficult task this week against one of the best teams in football with an offense that has not preformed well in recent weeks. Green Bay now has the 20th ranked offense and 26th in total passing, getting only 225.1 through the air. the good news for Green Bay is the most important defender for Arizona is out.
Tyrann Matheu was diagnosed this week with a torn ACL and will be out for the rest of the season. For a comparison, Matheu played the, “Charles Woodson position,” lining up all around the field and being their integral playmaker. The current word out of Arizona is that D.J. Swearinger, an unproven rookie, is slated to take his place. This will be the best opening for Green Bay to make plays in the air. The Cardinals have a shutdown corner in Patrick Peterson, but unlike a Richard Sherman, Peterson is known to move around the field to matchup with the player the Cardinals feel is the most dangerous. Most likely they will match Peterson to Randall Cobb, so that means the other receivers need to step up in a big way.
Davante Adams looks to have lost all of the respect with Rodgers he built up in the offseason, and the last few weeks nearly all of the attempts have gone Cobb’s & James Jones’ way. Peterson may be on Jones, but my bet based on his past work will be on Cobb without Matheu to play the slot and the rookie Searinger, while he will be moved around, most likely will go against the Packers’ third target, most likely Adams.
The Packers will have a chance to throw against the Cardinals but the question will be can they do so? Arizona does not have a particularly strong pass rush but the Packers offensive line has been shaky due to injuries for some time now (LT David Bakhtiari appears to be out for the game). Not to mention the Cardinals have the talent without Matheu to matchup with the Packers receivers because lesser corners have been able to mitigate the Packers’ receivers since they do not have the speed or size to beat man consistently. They will have to try and find passing lanes because Arizona has stuffed the run all season.
The Cardinals have the 4th ranked run defense in the league, giving up only 86.7 yards on the ground a game. Running has been more or less a large part of the offense recently, and the Cardinals will be keyed on Lacy and Starks. If the Packers can get to 100 yards as a team on the ground, it will be a big help against a difficult opponent and also keep a potent offense on the sidelines.
Packers’ Defense vs Cardinals’ Offense:
If the Packers’ defense is unable to win the game for the team for once, this appears to be the week for it. Arizona is the top overall offense in football; they boast the third best passing game, the sixth best rushing attack, the top gainer in total yards, and second best scoring offense. Carson Palmer has played at an unbelievable level and the offensive line for Arizona has kept him upright all season, giving up only 23 sacks all season. Green Bay has a strong pass rush that still should be able to bother Palmer, but they have the line to give him the time needed to find his talented wideouts.
On the outside, Arizona has three talented wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, & Michael Floyd. While at full strength the Packers have the ability to matchup with these receivers, but without Sam Shields (out this week with a concussion) this becomes much more difficult. Rookies Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins have the athleticism to matchup with these receivers, but do not necessarily have the experience to consistently do it. While veteran Casey Heyward will be able to do a pretty good job on Fitzgerald, Brown and Floyd potentially will have openings and Palmer has been laser sharp this season.
The Packers have struggled against the run, giving up the 22nd most yards and Arizona has been able to run with ease this season. This matchup is the biggest problem the Packers have to deal with today. The Cardinals recently have had rookie David Johnson explode on the scene after starter Chris Johnson went down with an injury. Stopping David Johnson will be the biggest key, despite the headlines being all about Palmer (and rightly so) the Packers still matchup well there. If Johnson can run wild, the Packers have little chance in the game.
The weather is irrelevant in Arizona’s dome stadium.
The Packers have their work cut out against one of the two clear front runners in the NFC race in their home stadium. Rodgers will need to turn around the downtrend Green Bay has had through the air without the protection of his left tackle. While Arizona is without Matheu, this still is no easy task. If everything can click for Green Bay offensively, they should be able to put up 27-35 points without Arizona’s emotional leader in Matheu making the key plays at key moments.
Defensively, the Packers have the near impossible job of stopping both Carson Palmer and David Johnson, both of whom have been red hot. The Packers have the talent to slow down the passing attack, but they have not shown the ability to stop the run this season.
Overall, without Matheu for the Cardinals, the Packers have the opportunity to take advantage and pass better than they have in recent weeks. However, they have been asking a lot of the defense to carry them recently and this task they might not be able to do. Even with a better game from the Packers’ offense, there is not enough talent there to consistently get downfield and score. Cardinals win this one 30-24.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University