The Green Bay Packers host the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon as they look to head into their bye week with a 6-3 record. The Packers enter the game with confidence, riding a three-game winning streak, but injuries have decimated their starting lineup.
The Packers will be the favorite at home against a struggling Cardinals team, but based on how this season's gone for Green Bay, anything can happen when the two teams take the field. While the Packers are looking to gain ground in the NFC North, the Cardinals are trying to catch the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.
Offensively, the Packers haven't done this well during the first half of the season, often going three-and-out. Defensively, the Packers have been fairly good on opening possessions and have limited the amount of opportunities for opposing offenses.
Against the Cardinals, the Packers could use a fast start on offense against a stingy defense. Against a Cardinals' offense that has struggled to put up points, the Packers would heavily benefit from putting points up early in the game.
It would be nice to see the Packers open the game with the no-huddle and try to up the tempo of the game.
When the Packers played the best team in the league, they blew out the Houston Texans. When they played the worst team in the league, they played the Jacksonville Jaguars to a tight game. The Packers have been too inconsistent this season, and part of that has been playing to the level of the competition.
On Sunday, the Packers can't afford to hang around and play to the Cardinals' level. The Packers are the more talented and better-coached team. They need to show that throughout the game instead of letting the Cardinals hang around.
Too often this season the Packers have taken a lead and let the other team hang around. While they have been able to close out games against the Jaguars and Rams, it burned them against the Indianapolis Colts.
If the Packers get a lead, they can't afford to let the Cardinals hang around. The Cardinals have a stingy defense that is capable of taking advantage of offensive mistakes. As a threat to score on every touch, Patrick Peterson is capable of changing a game at any point.
Alex Green and James Starks will get plenty of opportunities early in the game to carry the football, but the key will be sticking with the run. Even if neither player can get anything going early on, the Packers need to stay committed. Both players need more carries to be successful.
If the Packers can run the ball well, they will have a great chance to open up the Cardinals' secondary. The run will slow down the Cardinals' pass rush and give Aaron Rodgers plenty of time to find his receivers down the field.
The Cardinals have struggled with their offensive line this season, and the Packers need to take advantage. Even with a battered up defensive front, the Packers should get some chances to win one-on-one battles upfront and get to the quarterback.
If they can get pressure on the quarterback, the Packers will be in great position to get some turnovers against a subpar Cardinals offense. Clay Matthews will be looking to add to his sack numbers on the season and should come up with one or two sacks.
It seems like a constant theme, but the Packers need to catch the football. While Finley has gotten most of the heat for dropping passes, Nelson is right up there with him for drop totals. While it's mostly been a team problem, oddly enough, James Jones has been the most sure-handed.
With Greg Jennings out of the lineup and Jordy Nelson possibly missing his second straight game, the Packers' receivers that are playing need to play well. The Packers can't afford a drop-off at receiver, and the receivers need to help out their quarterback.
There's no secret who the best player on the Cardinals' roster is this year. The Packers need to contain Larry Fitzgerald and limit his chances down the field. Against the 49ers last week, Fitzgerald was running short routes, but he has the ability to stretch the field, if the quarterback can get the ball there.
Whether he is running short or deep routes, the Packers can't afford to let Fitzgerald run all over the defense like Reggie Wayne did. They need to provide help over the top and limit his chances in the short to medium range passing game.
The Cardinals have a great defensive line with Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell upfront. They are tough for anybody to stop, but T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton need to be up to the task on Sunday afternoon. If not, it's going to be a long day for the Packers' offense.
Aaron Rodgers will need solid time to throw the football, especially if Jordy Nelson can't go. Jones and Cobb are talented, but they struggled to get open last week against better corners than they are used to facing. Taking Dockett and Campbell out of the game is crucial.
Last week, Jermichael Finley wasn't very involved in a game he should have dominated. Without the top two weapons on the team, Finley had a big chance to step up and be the guy he so badly wants to be. He caught just two passes last week.
Finley killed the Cardinals in the 2009 playoff game. Much has changed, but Finley could certainly do for a big performance like that on Sunday. If Nelson is out of the lineup, we could possibly see the long-awaited re-breakout game for Finley.
The biggest key to the game is staying focused throughout and making sure to leave Lambeau Field with a victory. With the bye week and a chance to get healthy looming, the Packers just need to do whatever they can to get the result.
They are the better team in this matchup and shouldn't have a problem against the Cardinals. The Packers are coming off a relatively comfortable win against the Jaguars, while the Cardinals had to play Monday night against a tough division foe. If the Packers stay focused, they should head into their bye with a 6-3 record.