Cardinals vs Packers: 3 Key Matchups to Watch for Arizona
Whether it has been on the road or at home, for the fourth week in a row, the win-loss column for the Arizona Cardinals featured a loss. Their 4-4 record now has them in second place in the NFC West—two games behind the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately for the Cards, things don't get any easier in Week 9.
Ken Whisenhunt's club will travel to Lambeau Field to take on the red hot Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has been absolutely phenomenal the last three weeks. He has thrown 11 touchdown passes and hasn't been picked off once. Not to mention, his 866 yards passing and 120.5 quarterback rating aren't too shabby either.
After a lethargic performance on Monday Night Football, it will be important for Ray Horton's defense to get back on track this week. Let's take a look at which three defensive matchups will matter the most come Sunday afternoon.
Patrick Peterson versus James Jones/Randall Cobb
It appears as if the Cardinals secondary will catch a break this week with both Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson being listed as out. Nelson is suffering from a nagging hamstring injury and Jennings is dealing with a groin/abdominal problem. Neither player participated in practice on Friday.
With Green Bay's top two wideouts missing Sunday afternoon, cornerback Patrick Peterson has a better opportunity to have a bounce back game. On Monday night, he was worked over time after time. He allowed five catches on five targets for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
Yardage wise, it wasn't his worst performance of the season, yet at no point this season has any opposing quarterback had similar success in every other area. Allowing two touchdowns in one game is unheard of, considering PP has had an incredible year overall.
Given the fact Peterson would have probably lined up across from either Nelson or Jennings, he will probably see plenty of James Jones. All three players are similar in body type and size—Cobb will end up in the slot, so don't expect No. 21 to venture to uncharted territory.
It's rare to see him covering the slot. He primarily stays positioned at right or left cornerback, depending on the matchup. Regardless of his alignment, his matchup won't be easy. According to Pro Football Focus, Cobb is the Packers' highest graded receiver and Jones is the second highest graded.
Nelson is a close third, but Jennings has been a bit of a disappointment this year, falling behind due to injury.
Sunday's game will be decided by how well Arizona's secondary covers the Packers group of wide receivers.
Calais Campbell vs. T.J. Lang
After a down game in Week 7, Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell played really well in the team's Week 8 trouncing. In addition to a quarterback sack and a quarterback hurry, he registered six stops. A stop, according to PFF, is a solo defensive tackle that constitutes an offensive failure.
An impressive game against an impressive left guard that will go unnoticed because of the final score. However, Campbell will have an equally tough challenge this week as he squares off against left guard T.J. Lang. Lang is having a bit of down year in comparison to last year, but he is still well above average in terms of talent.
On the season, he has only allowed a total of 12 quarterback pressures. Fortunately for No. 93, Lang has currently ran into a string of bad performances. Over the last three games, he has allowed five of his 12 quarterback pressures. Not to mention his run blocking has been even worse than his pass protection.
When you go back and look at the tape you realize Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford and Antonio Smith have all swallowed him up in the run game. Honestly, I could see the same thing happen come Sunday.
Campbell's ability to stop the run is unreal. Right now the only run defender better in the NFL is J.J. Watt. He's playing at such a high-level that won't be matched for quite sometime. The only way I could see him slowing down is due to injury, but mano-a-mano, no offensive lineman stands a chance.
Darnell Dockett vs. Josh Sitton
Opposite of Campbell lies his counterpart Darnell Dockett. Dockett's matchup against Josh Sitton will prove to be the biggest of the day against Green Bay. Unlike Lang, Sitton is having the best year of his career. He isn't allowing opposing defenders anywhere near No. 12.
He allowed his first quarterback sack last week and on the season his nine pressures allowed is a team low. In the run game running back Alex Green has had his biggest runs behind Sitton. Green is averaging 4.1 yards per carry when running off his backside.
With Green being the Packers only option at running back, it would be wise for Green Bay to run him right at the right guard. Dockett's play against the run has been atrocious. Advanced NFL Stats has Dockett down as one the least efficient run defenders in the league.
The same goes for PFF. Out of the 34 3-4 defensive ends they have graded so far this season, Dockett is rated as the third worst run defender and the 10th worst end overall. Outside of his Week 1 domination of J.R. Sweezy, he has racked up six straight negatively graded games.
I know I have keyed in on both defensive ends, but it just proves how important both matchups are. When the ends are winning their interior matchups it translates into the success of the outside linebackers and the secondary. When playing the reigning MVP, all you can hope for is a strong push upfront.
Without that strong push, it is will be a long afternoon. Look at what happened to divisional rival St. Louis—Chris Long was stonewalled and the trickle down effect hit the secondary the hardest. No one could cover Green Bay's prolific wide receiving corp.
Plain and simple—Dockett needs to step his game up, it has been awful as of late.
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