Scott Z: As a Cardinals fan, it's difficult to really get a gauge on how well Rodgers plays against the Cards defense.
It's not often a team plays a non-division team twice before the playoffs, but that happened in the Cardinals' scheduling this year. But both of these games were essentially non-contests (a preseason and last weeks "gimme" game).
But he has played well against the league, and his protection has improved each week. He has a good stable of receivers, and given time he will find them.
One obvious key to stopping him, or at least slowing him down, will be how much pressure the Big Red D can get on him.
This is his first playoff game. This is his first real opportunity to be showcased wearing that mustard and relish. He can be savvy and still be nervous as all get-out.
One key here is how well (if at all) Calais Campbell plays. His hand was wrapped in a cast following last week's game, and the inability to grab with his mashed up thumb could have a definite impact.
Pressure on Rodgers will go a long way to forcing him into forcing things. That leads to short series and turnovers.
The other main key, of course, is whether or not All-Pro Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be on the field. While his injury wasn't as bad as suspected when he was carted off the field, it's still hard to say how limited he will be.
Chris: I think the No. 1 overall key to the game is getting Rodgers on his back early and often.
Statistically being one of the best pass rushing teams in the league, and the Packers having given up a league-tying number of sacks won't matter if we don't make that advantage ours on game day.
Scott Z: He's good, but not a great back. He's far from elite.
Occasional flops aside, the Cardinals have certainly had success in stopping stronger runners this year.
What he does do well is protect the ball. He doesn't fumble or turn the ball over. He has only one fumble on the season, and that was in the second week. This is obviously critical in the playoffs, where one fumble could end your season.
He also is rarely stopped for a loss, too.
Chris: My only concern is the Cardinals' mindset. If Whisenhunt pull s out every conceivable motivational tool with success, then Arizona should win this game.
If their minds are right, I have no worries. They can be an elite team when they play with focus.
Scott Z: I'd have to say DRC would be the most irreplaceable.
The Cards got a lot of mileage this season out of OLB's Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry. They would help cover Campbell missing time or being limited in getting pressure on Rodgers.
The Cards would miss Anquan a lot, but they've played well and won with Steve Breaston starting for Q in the past.
While no one can add the "Q" factor, especially after he busts one of his receptions, leaving defenders in his wake, Breaston, who would start on most teams anyway, should cover very well for Q if it comes down to that.
DRC's cover skills can't be matched on this team. His absence would have the most detrimental effect on the team this week. (crosses fingers)
Chris: I agree completely. Not having Campbell and Boldin would be a disadvantage, but not having DRC might be the deciding blow.
Scott Z: Well, I have a very good feeling about how well Kurt Warner will play this week.
Of course, the NFL being the ultimate team game, that will depend directly on the play of his OL, as well as RBs Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, as they will pave the way (or not) to Warner being the game's MVP.
Chris: Yeah, I have to go with Warner too. He always plays well in the postseason.
Scott Z: This "should be" a high-scoring, offensive affair. Yet I have the feeling that, when all is said and done, special teams will play a big part in the outcome.
Therefore, I'll go with the Hyphen (LaRod Stevens-Howling) as the game's most surprising star.
Chris: I am going with WR Early Doucet. His confidence and swagger are rising fast. I think he will make a few crucial plays for us on Sunday.
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