Arizona Cardinals vs Green Bay Packers: A Wild Card Preview

via prod.static.cardinals.clubs.nfl.com

The Arizona Cardinals open their second consecutive postseason at home against the visiting Green Bay Packers. The game will be the last playoff game of the weekend, and will determine who will move on to the divisional round of the playoffs against either the New Orleans Saints or the Minnesota Vikings. Game preview after the jump...

The Cardinals

The Cardinals are 10-6 for the first time since moving to Arizona, and are led by two-time MVP Kurt Warner. Their season can be described by one word - inconsistency. Although they haven't lost back to back games all year, they dropped games in fashion that left most Cardinals fans scratching their heads. One moment they were riding on their high-horse, the next game they were turning the ball over seven times on Monday night football. One thing's for certain - the Cardinals can beat any team when firing on all cylinders, but the question is when?

The Packers

The Packers are 11-5 and head into the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFC. They have victories in 7 or their last 8 games and the primary reason is due to the play of second year starter, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was selected to his first ever pro bowl this year after throwing 30 touchdowns with only 7 interceptions, and also had a 103.2 quarterback rating. The Packers looked average through the first half of the season, starting 4-4, and also losing both games to Brett Favre and the Vikings. Since then, the protection has improved and the improved running game has been part of the reason for their success. With Rodgers playing in his first playoff game, can he and the Packers overcome the pressure of playing on the road against the defending NFC champions?

Looking at the Past

The Cardinals have already played the Packers twice this season(once in the preseason, last week) and lost both times. You'll often here that it's never easy to beat a team once, let alone three times, which is why I believe this works in the Cardinals favor. In each meeting the Cardinals were handled by the Packers. In the preseason, the Packers starters out-scored the Cardinals starters 38-10. Last week, the Packers beat the Cardinals 33-7(granted the starters only played in the 1st quarter), meaning the Packers have out-scored the Cardinals 71-17 in two games this year. In those meetings the Packers defense completely swarmed and confused the Cardinals offense, forcing a combined seven turnovers. On offense, Rodgers and the receivers connected on several big touchdowns and kept the Cardinals defense on their heels. The Packers were impressive in both games, but in my opinion, wins are wins and you can't put too much into them considering one was a preseason game and the other was meaningless.

Three Keys To Success

  1. Pressure Aaron Rodgers - We talked about it earlier in the week - Aaron Rodgers has had an amazing second season as a starter. He threw 30 touchdowns, nearly 4,500 yards, and was fourthamong quarterbacks with a 103.2 rating. Throwing on 1st and 10 though, has been Rodgers downfall as a quarterback. That means the Cardinals will need to target him early on every set of downs. The defensive line needs to maintain gap discipline, and not allow Rodgers to scramble should the pocket collapse. Pressuring Rodgers will be the biggest step in suppressing the Packers high-powered offense.
  2. Protect the football - The Packers defense was tied for 2nd in the league with 37 takeaways and will be looking to force more turnovers on Sunday. Kurt Warner has had amazing postseason career, but even he has the ability to drop the ball(literally) at times without a warning. The Cardinals as a team had the 3rd most turnovers, committing 33 for the year. Ball security will be at the top of Ken Whisenhunts priority list.
  3. Open up the playbook - We saw a team that went from high-powered and explosive in 2008, to average in 2009. I can't help but wonder if Ken Whisenhunt has plenty of tricks up his sleeve like this one, waiting to unleash them in the playoffs. Aside from trick plays, plays over 20 yards will also be important to success. This team thrived off of the big play in the 2008 playoffs and out-scoring the Packers may be the only way they get through the first round of the playoffs this year.

Statistic Comparisons

The Packers obviously are the better of the two teams on paper, but is this all part of Ken Whisenhunt's plan to play possum?

Cardinals
Offense

vs

Packers
Defense
344.4(14th) TOT
YPG
284.4(2nd)
251.0(12th) Pass
YPG
201.1(5th)
93.4(28th) Rush
YPG
83.3(1st)
23.4(11th) PPG 18.6(7th)
33(give) TO 37(take)
27(10th) Pass
TD
29(28th)
26(allowed) Sacks 37(forced)

4.1

Rush
YPA

3.6

Packers
Offense

vs

Cardinals
Defense
379.1(6th) TOT
YPG
346.4(20th)
261.3(7th) Pass
YPG
242.1(28th)
117.8(14th) Rush
YPG
112.8(17th)
28.8(3rd) PPG 20.3(14th)
15(give) TO 28(take)
30(4th) Pass
TD
22(14th)
50(allowed) Sacks 43(forced)

4.3

Rush
YPA

4.5

My Prediction: Cardinals 33, Packers 28

Realistically I would never pick the Cardinals to lose, especially in the playoffs. But I do believe the game could go either way and both teams could certainly score over 30 points. In fact, I think the team that does score over 30 will win. It's exciting that the Cardinals are in their second consecutive postseason and that they have a shot to get back to the Super Bowl this year. It's going to be a challenge, but after all, no one expected the Cardinals to do anything last year. What are your thoughts on the game?

SB Nation Featured Video
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Revenge of the Birds

You must be a member of Revenge of the Birds to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Revenge of the Birds. You should read them.

Join Revenge of the Birds

You must be a member of Revenge of the Birds to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Revenge of the Birds. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker