NFC Wild Card Preview: Packers at Cardinals
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 1/6/2010
Yet another Wild Card game rematch of a Week 17 blowout, the Packers return to the playoffs as a much different team than when we last saw them in the postseason (in 2007) and the Cardinals do too. Last time we saw the Packers in the playoffs without Brett Favre under center was 1982. And last time we saw the Cardinals in the postseason, they were entering as a major underdog with little chance to advance to Super Bowl Sunday.
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This much is clear about these two teams: neither should be taken lightly. The Cardinals came one improbable touchdown catch from a Super Bowl championship last season and the Packers have one of the most balanced teams in the playoffs and are easily capable of making a run.
While the attitude about the Cardinals may be different considering their playoff run a year ago, the situation is nearly identical. Last year they won the West, garnered the No. 4 seed and earned a home field first round game against another 11-5 team (the Atlanta Falcons). This year all the pieces fell in place again except the Packers will take the Falcons place and Arizona is 10-6, a game better than last season.
The Cardinals may no longer be considered an underdog by the public after their breakout playoff run last season but Las Vegas still views them as such. Arizona is 22/1 to win the Super Bowl on Bodog. They are a slight one-point favorite over the Packers but it is Green Bay with slightly better Super Bowl odds at 20/1.
Green Bay blasted Arizona at the site of this Sunday’s game, 33-7, but of course the Cardinals, like most teams in Week 17, were dead set on tanking the game and preparing for this week. The last time the Packers played a playoff team before that was Week 13 against Baltimore. They won that game, 27-14, and overall Green Bay is 3-3 against playoff teams. They were swept by the Vikings and lost to Cincinnati back in Week 2.
Green Bay may have an underwhelming record against the NFL elite, but at least they have been tested. Along with playing in the weak NFC West, Arizona has only met two other playoff teams besides Green Bay. They won 30-17 at home against Minnesota and lost 31-10 at Indianapolis back in Week 3.
The biggest disparity between the two teams is defense. Green Bay is tops in the league against the run and second overall in yards allowed per game. The Cardinals have been lit up by opposing quarterbacks to the tune of 234 yards per game. Teams have been able to rush against them with relative ease as well. The Cardinals give up 113 yards per game on the ground.
The total of this game is set for 47, the highest of the Wild Card round. If Arizona wants to hang in there with Green Bay offensively, it will have to find a way to sustain a ground attack. That may be near impossible to do. They rank third to last in the league in rushing offense and the Green Bay run defense, as previously mentioned, is first in the NFL in stopping the run.
Arizona has been here before; they went through this same run last year. Even though Favre is not around, most of this Green Bay team has been there too and the one player who was not starting back in 2007, Aaron Rodgers, is playing as good if not better than any quarterback in the league right now.
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More than anything their defense has done this year or what Rodgers has done, Green Bay’s regular season schedule has them more prepared for this game than Arizona, even as the road team. Arizona’s run to the Super Bowl was impressive last season, but thanks to that run, they should not expect to be taken lightly by any one this time around.