Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
This is the third game of the Wild Card round featuring a pair of teams that closed their 2009 seasons playing each other. Green Bay crushed the Cardinals 33-7 in Arizona, though the Cardinals did pull out several of their players early on.
What To Watch From The Packers
The Packers took awhile to get the ground game going this season, but the offensive line jelled together and running back Ryan Grant ran for 1,253 yards and scored 11 times. Though Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers got much of the press, Grant has been an underrated and valued player. He could make the difference Sunday.
What Green Bay gives Rodgers is an assortment of weapons to throw the ball to. Eight different players have over 20 receptions. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver start at wide receiver and have 70 and 68 receptions, respectively. Tight end Jermichael Finley pitched in with 55 catches. They will keep Arizona's secondary busy all day.
The defense is led by a good secondary, featuring cornerback Charles Woodson and free safety Nick Collins. Both are Pro Bowlers; Woodson shares the league lead of nine interceptions, and Collins has six himself. Their abilities have allowed rookie outside linebacker Clay Matthews III lead the team with 10 sacks and go to the Pro Bowl.
What To Watch From The Cardinals
Arizona did get 793 rushing yards from rookie running back Beanie Wells and 598 more from Tim Hightower, but they prefer to throw the football most often. Quarterback Kurt Warner has Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to go to, but it is questionable whether fellow wide receiver Anquan Boldin will be healthy enough to be effective. Boldin is dealing with sprains in his left ankle and knee. Steve Breaston will slide into the starting lineup if he can't play.
The defense may also be in trouble because their Pro Bowl cornerback, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, is nursing a knee injury. They will need him at full speed to cover the excellent Packers receivers. Pro Bowl strong safety Adrian Wilson will then be able to concentrate just on Finley, giving Arizona more defensive versatility.
Arizona relies on their defensive linemen to give them the bulk of their pass rush, so that their linebackers can drop back into pass coverage. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Darnell Dockett shares the team lead of seven sacks with defensive end Calais Campbell. Their other starting defensive end, Bertrand Berry, has six sacks.
If this group can harass Rodgers behind an offensive line that has struggled at times, it may lead to a Cardinals victory.
Running Back: Even
Offensive Line: Even
Defensive Line: Even
Linebacker: Slight Edge Packers
Secondary: Edge Packers
Special Teams: Even
Coaching: Slight Edge Cardinals
The Cardinals are trying to defend their NFC Championship, and face a team that mirrors them in many ways. Both teams have injuries at key spots, as well as quarterbacks who love to get the ball in the air often. The teams both have inconsistent running games, and the difference in this game may be decided by who grounds out the most positive plays.
Cardinals 37, Packers 35