The Arizona Cardinals are set to host their first playoff game in six years when they take on the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night.
It’s a game six years, and two weeks, in the making.
Yes, it has been six years since the Arizona Cardinals hosted a NFL playoff game and it has been two weeks since the team took the field.
When Arizona left the field on January 10th, 2010 after beating the Green Bay Packers 51-45 in overtime, they had no idea that it would be almost exactly six years later they play another playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium. It seems ironic that the Cardinals yet again will host the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.
The game on Saturday will be the second time in four weeks that the Cardinals host the Packers. Arizona played Green Bay in Week 16, a 38-8 win, where the Cardinals’ defense had more sacks (9) than the Packers had points (8).
The Packers finished second in their division behind the Minnesota Vikings, which meant, unlike the Cardinals, the Packers played last week. They traveled to Washington to face the Redskins, where they won 35-18. Prior to the Washington game, the Packers had struggled but in the second half against the Redskins the Green Bay offense seemed to find its grove.
A story line of this game is Carson Palmer’s 0-2 record in the playoffs. In his first playoff appearance with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005, Palmer threw only one pass, a 66-yard strike. On the play Palmer tore his ACL, and the Bengals lost the game. Palmer’s only full game in the playoffs was in 2009 when he only completed 50 percent of his passes and threw just one touchdown in the 34-14 loss to the New York Jets. Palmer is a totally different quarterback with an arsenal of weapons to hand the ball off to or to throw deep down the field, he is looking to have a great game.
The Arizona Cardinals’ offense ranks 1st in yards per game and 2nd in total points. In the Cardinals last match-up with the Packers, MVP candidate Carson Palmer was 18-27 with 265 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The Cardinals have on of the leagues most dynamic offenses, and they should with players like Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. The explosion of David Johnson and John Brown has given the Cardinals the power to win games by big margins.
The Green Bay Packers’ offense is 23rd in yards per game and 15th in total points. Aaron Rodgers has not looked like the MVP candidate that he once was, being pulled from the Cardinals’ game in the 4th quarter. Rodgers lack of success on offense is not all his fault. A shaky offensive line and the inability to have a clear pocket have limited his ability to throw the ball deep down the field. The Packers have gotten healthier on the offensive line, but for Green Bay they will be without Davante Adams and running back Eddie Lacy was limited all week long. Health will be a big concern for the Packers in this game. But for the Cardinals they can’t forget that it is Aaron Rodgers and he can make you pay if you make a mistake.
Advantage: Arizona Cardinals
When the Cardinals faced the Packers in December, the Arizona defense allowed just 178 yards and forced four turnovers. Two of the turnovers were strip sacks that were returned for touchdowns. The Cardinals are ranked 5th in the NFL in yards per game with 321.7 yards allowed. Even with the injury to Tyrann Mathieu, the defense has stepped up. This weekend the Cardinals will be without Cory Redding and Alex Okafor because of injury, but it should not impact the outcome of the game.
The Green Bay Packers have found success recently in their pass rush, but even in a game that featured a mediocre offense, the defense allowed a good amount of yards. The Packers allowed the Washington Redskins to have 354 yards of total offense, which is eight more yards than the Packers were able to manufacture. Green Bay will need to get after Palmer in order to have success on defense. One thing hindering the Packers will be the healthy of Sam Shields. Shields is currently questionable for the game after undergoing concussion protocol this week. If he is not able to play on Saturday, look for Palmer to find holes easily in the defense.
Looking at the talent of both teams, it is easy to see that one is superior to the other. The Arizona Cardinals are the superior team in this game, but you cannot discount the fact that the Packers have a former MVP candidate in Aaron Rodgers who can make you pay for your mistakes.
With the Cardinals coming off the bye and the extra time to rest and Green Bay playing last week and flying to Arizona, this game could be a blowout, or it could come down to a field goal. It will be interesting to see how this game plays out and if the Packers really got back on track last week in the second half.
Based on the fact that the Cardinals have had a week to rest and plan for the Packers, and that Carson Palmer lit up the Packers defense in December, Arizona will win this game. My prediction is that it won’t be a blowout, but it will be a solid win; 32-17 Cardinals.