Forget Larry Fitzgerald against Charles Woodson. Ok, don’t forget it. It’s probably the sexiest player-player match-up in the first round of the playoffs, but it won’t decide the game Sunday when the Cardinals play the Packers in Glendale.
Listen to the call of an NFL football long enough and you’ll inevitably here talk about the work in “the trenches” that goes unnoticed. The color analyst will spout cliché phrases about the “warriors” or the “big uglies” that don’t get the credit they deserve.
We get it.
By now, anyone who has watched more than three football games in his or her life understands the important of winning the battle upfront (see, there I go with the clichés now).
And for as many “sexy” match-ups as there will be at University Phoenix stadium, none will weigh more heavily on the game than the Packers defensive line against the Cardinals offensive line.
Neither team has the defensive backs to cover the opposing skill players. Neither team will likely be able to disguise coverages very well. And neither team figures to do much with their ground game (where the Packers hold a decided edge anyway). So where do we go from there?
Dom Capers’ defense is predicated on winning individual match-ups, not necessarily exotic blitzes and tricky formations as you may think. The poor defensive outings early in the season were less schematic and more performance-based.
The Packers will not have the luxury of bringing pressure and blitzes every down because the Cardinals simply have too many weapons and Kurt Warner is just too smart and accurate with the ball on hot reads.
And Kurt Warner is the key to the Arizona Cardinals. Warner played most or all of the game in four of the team’s six losses. In those four games, he threw 11 of his 14 interceptions on the season and was sacked a total of 13 times.
Green Bay’s defense will have to generate pressure with four and five man pressures because with Al Harris out, the Packers otherwise deep secondary is vulnerable to this explosive group of receivers for Arizona.
If the Packers defensive front can win at the point without having to bring six and seven men on a pass-rush, the Packers defensive backs could be Ahmad Carroll and Antwan Edwards.
The teams who beat the Cards: the Colts, Panthers, and 49ers (twice), don’t have the talent the Packers have in their secondaries even with Al Harris out. Green Bay’s secondary features two Pro Bowl players and the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year, and took more passes from opposing quarterbacks than any team in the league this year.
With the Cardinals best offensive lineman, Wayne Gandy, out with injury, it should be even easier for the Packers to take advantage of match-ups and win their individual battles at the line of scrimmage.
Fox wants you to be watching Fitzgerald/Woodson. And you should. But if Clay Matthews and co. are near Kurt Warner as often as Woodson is near Fitzgerald (which will likely be every play), Fox won't get to show many Fitzgerald highlight, just Warner picking himself up off the ground. On his heels, or better yet on his back, is exactly where Packer fans want him.