60 minutes of football stand between the Packers and a chance to finally get healthy. There are so many little (and a few big) injuries on this team that I don't even feel like listing them all. Regardless, they need to get healthy.
While Arizona may seem like a pushover (what with their ongoing quarterback woes), their defense is relatively strong. They can rush the passer and they have talent in the secondary, but will that talent be enough to keep the game close?
The question of talent is one I've been pondering a lot over the last week. In last week's preview, I made mention of the apparent Grand Canyon sized talent disparity between the Jaguars and the Packers. Well, just look how quickly that talent gap narrows with a couple injuries. The Jaguars didn't look like a team that was miles behind the Packers last week, and I think that could again be the case this week against Arizona.
5 - Total touchdowns by Randall Cobb this year, including four receiving and one via punt return. Cobb's emergence as a true playmaker has been one of the more interesting subplots of this season. He's currently leading the team in receptions, second in receiving yards, and third in receiving touchdowns. I'm not sure if he has the skill set to ever be a true number one receiver, but he's doing a good job leading the way while Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings recover from their various ailments.
4 - Sacks this season by former Wisconsin Badger O'Brien Schofield, who's now a linebacker for the Cardinals. Schofield is proving to be a good value for the Cardinals, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Wisconsin product could have been a high second or even first round pick, but he tore his ACL during a Shrine Game practice just before the draft. He's finally back on his feet, though, and contributing to a pass rush that's tied for the league lead in sacks with the Packers.
3 - Interceptions by Cardinal cornerback and all-around playmaker Patrick Peterson. The former LSU Tiger has been nothing short of spectacular since he entered the league, contributing as both a great cornerback and an electrifying returner. More on Mr. Peterson later.
2 - Touchdowns scored by Donald Driver this year. The veteran receiver notched his second score of the season Sunday, as he filled in for the injured Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. Driver's playing time has been seriously reduced this year, but he could be called on to step up once again this week as Jennings continues to recover from surgery and Nelson is still up in the air.
1 - Losses by the Packers in their last 17 home games (knock on wood). Green Bay has been very consistent at home under coach Mike McCarthy, and that looks to continue Sunday.
Last Time - January 10, 2010 - Cardinals: 51 Packers: 45 (OT)
There's an interesting twist to this week's Dope Sheet on Packers.com. While the site mentions the last regular season meeting between the two squads several times, there's no in depth mention of the real last time the Cardinals and Packers played.
That game, of course, was the playoff matchup between Arizona and Green Bay, a 51-45 shootout victory by the Cardinals. That game ended in overtime when Aaron Rodgers
nearly had his head taken off by an uncalled facemask was strip-sacked and had the ensuing fumble returned for a touchdown, giving the Cardinals the win.
This was a significant moment in Packer history, I think. If his career was a superhero movie, this would have been the moment Aaron Rodgers first truly realized his super powers and achieved some success, but came up short. Of course, since then Rodgers has had virtually nothing but success, scoring a Super Bowl win, a Super Bowl MVP, and a 15-1 season along the way. In my mind, that run all began with a gut-wrenching loss in Arizona.
And just because I forced myself to relive it, you have to as well.
Meet a Cardinal - Patrick Peterson - 6'1", 217 lbs - CB - 2nd NFL season
In today's pass-happy league, cornerback is increasingly a premium position. The Cardinals invested a pretty seriously at the cornerback spot, selecting Peterson fifth overall in last year's draft.
If you were building a cornerback from scratch, you'd build Patrick Peterson. He has perfect size, great speed, and the long arms necessary to shut down even the best receivers. Not only that, but he has the skills necessary to harness his prodigious physical talent. I believe Peterson is on his way to being one of the premier corners in the NFL.
Peterson is seriously dangerous return man as well, as evidenced by his highlights from his rookie year. He hasn't yet returned a punt for a touchdown just yet, but he may be due. The Packers should give him the same respect they'd give to someone like Devin Hester or Percey Harvin.
Speaking of returns, he won the game for the Cardinals in overtime against St. Louis last year.
The Cardinals Will Win If...
They continue their pass rushing dominance and can force Aaron Rodgers into bad plays. As we saw last week, Rodgers is surprisingly vulnerable if he doesn't have his top weapons on the field, although just about any quarterback would be if you took two of his top five receivers away for any extended period of time. The Cardinals have shown they can rush the passer and the Packers have shown that they can't protect the passer, so we could see a little heat on Mr. Rodgers this weekend.
The Packers Will Win If...
...they get ahead early. Whether it's John Skelton or Kevin Kolb under center, I'm not sure the Cardinals have the firepower to come from behind if they get down. Larry Fitzgerald is a weapon, to be sure, but even he may not be able to get open often enough to make a difference in a big comeback late.
The Pick - Packers: 21 Cardinals:17
The official line on this one (as of today) has the Packers favored by 11 points, but that was the case last week against Jacksonville too. I think this could be another grind-it-out win for the Packers, which is fine with me. They may just need to get to the bye week and get healthy. 6-3 at the bye would be just fine with me.
The Rest (home team in ALL CAPS)
CHARGERS over Chiefs Lions over JAGUARS Bears over TITANS Broncos over BENGALS REDSKINS over Panthers Ravens over Browns Dolphins over COLTS TEXANS over Bills SEAHAWKS over Vikings Buccaneers over RAIDERS GIANTS over Steelers FALCONS over Cowboys SAINTS over Eagles
Last week: 9-5
Season total: 78-39 (.667)