The Arizona Cardinals' game against the Green Bay Packers will represent a new beginnings for the franchise, which lost nine of its final 10 games last season. It's only the preseason, obviously, but a fresh start without any losses in the standings can do wonders for a team's confidence.
The Packers are getting a fresh start of their own, too, after losing earlier than expected in last year's playoffs. The preseason isn't going to mean as much to them with positional battles relatively settled at the important spots, so instead Green Bay will mostly be looking to escape without injuries.
Meet the Packers
Green Bay's roster is pretty well-known, even to casual football fans, but the offense is going to look a bit different this preseason. Greg Jennings is now with the Minnesota Vikings, Jordy Nelson is out for the preseason and left tackle Bryan Bulaga will miss the entire year after tearing his ACL in practice. They also have to decide whether rookie Eddie Lacy is ready to take on the primary load at running back.
Deciding whether to replace Bulaga with either Marshall Newhouse or rookie David Bakhtiari is going to be key this preseason, but making sure Aaron Rodgers is comfortable with his receiving corps -- which could be sans Nelson, Jennings and Randall Cobb, for now -- is also vital. Oh, and the whole "will Vince Young make the roster?" question is going to be something to keep an eye on.
Meet the Cardinals
The Cardinals will start a new quarterback, replacing Kevin Kolb with Carson Palmer, but that's not expected to turn Arizona's offense completely around. To do that, they'll attempt to rely more heavily on a running game centered on Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams while trying to get Larry Fitzgerald as many touches as he can handle.
Starting linebacker Daryl Washington is scheduled to miss the first four games of the season due to a suspension, leaving a hole on the left side of the defense. Playmakers on defense like Patrick Peterson and Darnell Dockett are healthy, however, so Arizona shouldn't struggle any more than it has in the past.
Local Takes: Packers
Tex Western from Acme Packing Company says not to expect much to be shown from the Packers:
Don't expect to see much of the Packers' starters (at least Aaron Rodgers or Clay Matthews) after about the second series. Left tackle Bryan Bulaga injured his knee at the Packers' open scrimmage on Saturday and appears to have torn his ACL -- he is expected to miss the entire season. Jordy Nelson had some knee surgery this week to correct a nerve problem and he'll be out until at least week one.
Local Takes: Cardinals
Jess Root of Revenge of the Birds says that the Cardinals' passing game will be improved:
Well, after the abject failure of 2012, it is hard not to be excited for the passing game. Palmer is a guy that can get the ball down the field. Bruce Arians runs an offense that really moves the ball. Palmer had over 4,000 yards for the Raiders. He now has Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. I would say that the passing offense is expected to be solid. At minimum, he should be able to repeat his 2012 stats.
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The prediction is that football will be played on Friday night. The Packers will likely score on their first two drives, but the Cardinals might leave their starters in a bit longer and make it a close game down the stretch. Still, there's no reason to think Arizona overtakes Green Bay.
The Packers opened as six-point favorites, but the point-spread has been split to just three points after a few big injuries, according to OddsShark.
The Cardinals continue their preseason schedule with a Saturday afternoon game on the road against the Dallas Cowboys. Green Bay will go on the road to visit the St. Louis Rams in a Saturday night affair.