PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: Still Alive

Nobdoy’s underdog.  That’s the message.  This team is going to Arizona expecting to win and move on to the NFC Championship, which very well could be at Lambeau Field against the Seahawks.  That’s what we all wanted before the season started anyway, right?  A shot at redemption against the Seahawks, but this time at home.

No one else believes, though.  The Packers are seven point underdogs and 5/2 to actually win the game in the sports book.  Even Packers fans have a hard time believing that this season is going to go any further than Saturday night. They could, though.  They could win.

That’s really the point.  There’s a chance.  That’s all I asked for in last week’s Football Friday.  I get to watch my favorite team play at least one more time.  Everything went wrong this season.  Jordy Nelson didn’t play.  The offensive line was beat up.  Aaron Rodgers missed throws.  They lost EVERY division home game for the first time since wayyyy before I was born.

There are reasons to believe.  The Packers are much healthier than they were the last time they played Arizona.  The return of Bakhtiari (or rather the lack of Don Barclay in the game plan) could help lower the four turnovers that gave Arizona 28 points in the last meeting.  They also get Sam Shields back, whose speed is very useful against the speed of the Arizona receivers.

When the Packers have the ball:

This is the other big reason that the Packers have a chance in this game.  The offense seemed to find itself in Washington.  Washington has an average defense, with much less talent than Arizona’s, but there is still reason to have optimism.  The structured, vertical Green Bay offense that really only works with an exceptional pass-blocking offensive line and a #1 receiver that either wins one on ones or demands a double team (Jordy Nelson) did different stuff in Washington.

Aaron Rodgers even looked like he was having fun, God forbid.  The cardinals don’t actually rush the passer that effectively.  They usually have to blitz to get that done.  Unfortunately when your tackles are Don Barclay and Josh Walker, you don’t need to be blitzed and you can still give up eight sacks.

That’s not going to be as much of a problem this time.  I think there is a chance the Packers could score between 24 and 30 points in this game.

When the Cardinals have the ball: 

I also think that there’s a chance the Packers can hold the Cardinals under 24 points.  It’s possible.  The Cardinals don’t run the ball that effectively.  David Johnson is a very good player, but using him as a between the tackles runner is not devastating.  If the Packers can win on early downs, I think you might see them forego their nickel defense and go straight to dime, something that they did with regularity against Washington.

The Packers dime defense actually matches up pretty well with Arizona.  Sam Shields can run with John Brown like few corners in the league.  If there is a slot corner that can match up with Larry Fitzgerald it’s Casey Hayard.  That leaves Quentin Rollins, Micah Hyde and Damarious Randall to run around after Michael Floyd, JJ Nelson and the rest of the weapons that the Cardinals sport on offense.

The aforementioned Johnson killed the Packers, and specifically Jake Ryan in their first meeting this season.  Both Micah Hyde and Joe Thomas are likely to have better success against the fleet footed Johnson than Ryan would.  The key to the game is to be able to win on early downs, cover with 7 in the dime, and create pressure with four.  Peppers and Matthews have to play well.

Bottom Line:

I said on this week’s episode of From the Benches that if the Packers can win this game, I’ll be forced to believe again.  The way that this season has gone has been tough for fans.  It’s been tough for me.  So many things that you become accustomed to as a Packers fan, didn’t happen this year.  Winning at home.  Dominating the division.  Scoring lots of points.  Sweeping the Vikings.

When the Packers were down 11-0 to Washington in the first quarter, I was ready to let the season go.  It was time to move on to the offseason and try to figure out how to win Super Bowl 51.  That’s all that really matters.  Winning the Super Bowl.  There are no division championship banners at Lambeau Field.

If Green Bay plays really well, they can beat Arizona.  If that happens I think they’re going to win the Super Bowl.  Just because.  The offensive improvement has real reasons behind it.  A better scheme and better pass protection.  The defense does match up OK with the Cardinals.  They only gave up 24 points to the Cardinals in the last meeting, the offense gave up the other 14.

It’s OK to believe.  I want to, I just need to see more.  I need to see the Packers win this game before I’m all the way back in.  Right now I think they show up, I just don’t think they quite get it done.  Nothing good ever happens to this team in Glendale.  Packers 23 Cardinals 27

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Ross Uglem is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Ross on twitter at RossUglem

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