Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals (-7, 50 o/u)
The Green Bay Packers (10-6, 5-3 Away) haven’t forgotten the beating they took when they visited the Arizona Cardinals (13-3, 6-2 Home) a few short weeks ago. Aaron Rodgers and company will be looking for a complete 180 when they once again head to University of Phoenix Stadium in the Divisional Playoffs (Saturday, Jan. 16, at 8:15 PM Eastern).
The Packers were embarrassed by the Cardinals, 38-8, in Week 16, getting outplayed in all phases of the game. The offense committed four turnovers and watched the Zona D take two back for scores. Meanwhile, the D gave up multiple 40-plus-yard pass plays and surrendered nearly five yards per carry.
The dismal effort in Week 16 was the norm for Green Bay late in the season. After starting the year 6-0, the team skidded to a 4-6 finish, and were rarely in sync even in their wins.
All that changed last weekend, though. The Packers fell behind 11-0 against Washington, but stormed back for a 35-18 win, looking like the squad that dominated its first half-dozen games. Aaron Rodgers go some of his swagger back, completing 21 of 36 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns last week. But the running game made the real difference, grinding out 141 yards and two scores.
“We got the tempo up, and they couldn’t keep up,” Rodgers told the Associated Press. “We became a snowball, kind of going downhill, and it was tough for us to stop.”
Scoring 35 against the Redskins defense – arguably the weakest among playoff teams – is no indication that they’ll be able to light up the Cardinals, of course. Arizona features a D that’s top-ten against both the pass and the run, and limited the Packers to well under 200 yards in their first meeting. The pass rush was a huge part of that, sacking Aaron Rodgers eight times in the game. (On the season, though, Arizona didn’t have a great rush, and the Packers will have a healthier o-line this time around.)
If the Packers can’t score at a clip, this one could get out of hand early. The Cards scored over 30 points per game and led the league in yards from scrimmage, putting up 288.5 passing yards (second in the NFL) and 119.8 rushing yards (seventh) on average.
The Cardinals are arguably the most complete team in the playoffs. The only area where they’re lacking is experience. Carson Palmer is just 0-2 in the postseason over his career, while the younger Rodgers is 8-5 and already has a ring on his finger. But momentum is clearly swinging Arizona’s way. Lay the touchdown.
Pick: Cardinals (-7).
(Photo credit: FF Swami (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode].)
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