Green Bay Packers (11-5) @ Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
4:30 PM ET, January 10, 2010
U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
In another Week 17 rematch for the NFL Wild Card playoff games, the Green Bay Packers travel back to Arizona to take on the Cardinals, the defending NFC champs. Just last last week, the Packers smoked the Cardinals to the tune of 33-7. Were the Cardinals holding back? How significant are their injuries? Just some of the questions facing the home team while the visiting Pack seem to be hitting on all cylinders, winning 7 of 8 with the only loss a last-second heart-breaker to Pittsburgh.
Acme Packing Company is breaking down the matchup by team units. How does the Pack passing game look against the Cardinals pass defense? The run game matchups? They're all available over at SB Nation's Packers blog.
Acme Packing Company on Green Bay's passing defense vs. the Cardinals passing offense:
If the Cardinals are going to beat the Packers, it's going to be through the air.
The Packers' last loss was in Pittsburgh when QB Ben Roethlisberger went wild for 503 yards and 3 TDs. He did it by spreading the ball around, and beating the weaker members of the Packers' pass coverage (CB Jarrett Bush, CB Josh Bell, and LB A.J. Hawk).
One reason why the Steelers were so successful is that they have several great receivers. According to Football Outsiders, WRs Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Mike Wallace are all in the Top 15 wide receivers of 2009, and TE Heath Miller is the 8th best tight end. The problem for the Cardinals is that their receivers have been nowhere near as good as the Steelers. WR Larry Fitzgerald has had another great season (FO rank: No. 11), while WR Steve Breaston has been good (FO rank: No. 27), and WR Anquan Boldin has struggled (FO rank: No. 38).
Revenge Of The Birds knows that to slow down the Packers you need to slow down Aaron Rodgers. Of utmost importance is forcing third and longs, then getting pressure on the Pack QB.
With a defensive line led by Darnell Dockett, the Cardinals need to get in Rodgers face and force him out of his comfort zone. To be fair, 17 of the Cardinals 41 sacks have occurred on 3rd down, meaning they have turned up the pressure when opponents have needed to convert.
I realize the Cardinals can pick their poison at times, either by dropping more men in coverage and giving the quarterback more time to make a play, or by sending more defenders after the quarterback and leaving a receiver wide open. In this situation I'd prefer the Cardinals to keep the pressure coming.
Bill Davis didn't show his hand in their loss to the Packers, which is why I believe the Cardinals are winding up for this Sunday. Third down has been Rodgers strong-suit, and the Cardinals will need to keep the blitzes coming even if the game is one the line.
For the latest on the critical injuries to Cardinals players Anquan Boldin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, visit here.