With the most dominating win of Week 16, the Arizona Cardinals thrust themselves back in contention for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. At 13-2, the Cardinals still need to beat the Seattle Seahawks next week and hope the Carolina Panthers lose their season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even if the Cardinals don't get the top seed, there's a good argument to make that they're the best team in the NFL.
On the other side of the loss, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. After playing just below expectations for most of the season Sunday, the Packers imploded, 38-8. The score was 31-0 before the Packers finally got on the board midway through the third quarter. Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times as part of a three-turnover day. His two lost fumbles were returned for touchdowns. His interception occurred at the Cardinals' goal line after the Packers were threatening to flip momentum with an interception.
Rodgers was playing a team that is arguably playing better than any in the league with the playoffs looming, yes, but a former MVP should be counted to trump matchup problems. Rodgers is contending with a porous offense line, listless running game and a defense that has struggled when facing a deficit ... but these problems existed in recent years, too. Rodgers has taken a step back this season, on pace to record a passer rating under 100 for the first time since 2008.
Which isn't to say Rodgers has been playing badly, of course, but for once he isn't good enough to overcome all of the Packers' shortcomings. As the most consistent member of the Packers, it was jarring to see him struggle -- to see him find receivers late, to see him miss targets under pressure, to see him look ... mortal.
The Cardinals are the opposite, and what makes them great puts the Packers' problems in even starker relief. The Cardinals scored twice on defense, rushing 121 yards at 4.7 yards per carry and passed for 260 more. Carson Palmer threw for 9.8 yards per carry -- nearly double Rodgers' 5.4. Few would take Palmer over Rodgers in terms of talent, but Palmer is playing better than Rodgers because he has help.
Sunday's game was not an aberration. The Packers have struggled against their toughest opponents -- also dropping games to the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers -- while the Cardinals have repeatedly risen to the task -- beating the Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks and, now, Green Bay. The Packers have backed themselves into a corner where Rodgers can't struggle, losing every game in which Rodgers failed to record at least an 82.4 passer rating.
The Cardinals are better adapted to adversity, and it's the reason that no NFL team should want to face them right now.
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