Early Bird Breakdown Divisional Round – Packers @ Cardinals

Hello and welcome back the Early Bird Breakdown. Before we get into this week’s rematch, let’s look back at last week’s win.

The Recap:

Last week the Packers got some of their grove back beating down Washington 35-18. The offense was heavily driven by the ground game, which gained as a team 141 yards. The offensive line kept Rodgers upright and surrendered only one sack. Defensively, the Packers got the quarterback Cousins 6 times and held Washington to only 84 total rushing yards. All around it was a good showing for Green Bay.

The Breakdown:

Packers’ Offense vs Cardinals’ Defense:

The only thing last week that was not very good for Green Bay was that Rodgers still only passed for 210 yards. The Packers are without Davante Adams this week and GM Ted Thompson did not promote or sign any receivers so Green Bay comes into the game with only four wide receivers. The Packers will once again need to rely on the run but Arizona is a whole different animal than Washington.

Washington during the regular season was 26th against the run (122.6 yards per game) and 25th against the pass (258.0 yards per game). They were the fourth worst defense overall in all of football. The Cardinals were 8th against the pass (230.4 yards per game) and 6th against the run (91.3 yards per game). This defense was the 5th best overall and we only need to look at the last game to see what they can do against this Packers team that has struggled down the stretch.

The Packers had 178 total net yards (77 passing, 101 rushing) last time these two teams played just a few weeks ago. While I do not expect them to do this bad, they do not have the weapons to get open against this physical secondary and Arizona’s strong pass rush will be too much for the injured Packers’ line to handle. Expect more sacks this week than last week.

The only way the Packers can win this game is if they do even better running the ball than they did last time (which was better than the average opponent Arizona faced). Green Bay will need to sustain long drives to keep the hyper efficient Arizona offense sidelined as well as grind out points in what will be a difficult task. Rodgers has the skills necessary to get the ball into incredibly tight windows but I do not expect Arizona’s corners to play as off the receivers as Washington did. Corners Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers will lock down the receivers at the line to keep them from getting those short completions they used to move the chains against Washington.

Packers’ Defense vs Cardinals’ Offense:

Let’s take a moment to think about just how good Green Bay’s defense has been this season. They have created clutch turnovers, big drive ending sacks, and held opponents to field goals in the red zone. This defense has done an exceptional job getting the Packers into the playoffs down the stretch. Their biggest weakness though is when they cannot make the big plays on third down to get the offense off of the field and Arizona does not usually make those mistakes.

Carson Palmer had his best season, throwing for 35 touchdowns and 4671 yards. His only blemish is that he did have double digit interceptions with 11. The Packers key defensively to the game will be getting at least two turnovers. I can see Palmer having one but two is a tall order from the number one ranked total offense in the league.

The other problematic player for Green Bay is running back David Johnson, who only had 9 rushing attempts the last time they played for 39 yards. This week the Cardinals most likely will pound the ball early and often to setup play action to their talented wide receiver corps led by Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. While the Packers’ corners are good enough to contain the two, Arizona could break open a big play off of play action if David Johnson gets going and the Packers youthful corners fall for the fake.

The Weather:

Is not a factor because Arizona plays in a domed stadium.

The Breakdown:

For Aaron Rodgers, this would be his biggest challenge of his career and a massive upset if they can go into the desert and pull this off. Arizona is the number one overall offense and the number five overall defense. Green Bay is the 23rd overall offense and the 15th overall defense. Arizona is at home where they won 38-8 when they played a few weeks ago and Green Bay since then has gotten more injured while overall the Cardinals are basically healthy.

The Packers can win by not turning it over, getting 100 yards from Eddie Lacy and 150 total rushing yards, and generating two turnovers leading to points themselves. However, as good as they looked overall against Washington the passing attack still was mostly flat and they are even thinner at receiver. While I can imagine Rodgers dodge defenders and whipping the ball downfield I cannot imagine anyone getting open to catch those balls. Green Bay keeps it more competitive this time but ultimately Arizona puts it away late and wins 31-20.

As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University