I know a lot has been said about the Cardinals.
Many say they have no business being in the playoffs, the division they play in is weak, and they should be one and done.
Mark my words. Be very afraid of the underdog!
Teams all too often fall into a false sense of security when facing an opponent such as Arizona; look at what just happened in Cincinnati.
Despite the last game blowout, where Warner and company had the night off; the Cardinals are a team that at any time sneak up and bite you. You must give respect to the defending NFC champions.
Today, look for a whole new team, the regular Arizona team, and if you're Green Bay, I wouldn't be so comfortable with your season ending win.
If anything, the keys to this match up lay in the hands of the Arizona defense more than the offense.
The defense, mediocre and inconsistent, must step up and pressure Aaron Rodgers and force him to throw quickly. When Rodgers has the time to check down options, he is lethal.
Another key factor is Ryan Grant. If memory serves me correctly, if they can contain him early and render him ineffective, he usually gets flustered, essentially making the Packers one-dimensional.
The linebackers for the Cardinals must tell Green Bay there will be no option over the middle, and make them keep their throws to the flats and corners.
This is a tall order for the Cardinals' defense, but they have the personnel to do it.
If anything, they must pull the tapes of their victory over Minnesota and use them here, since Green Bay and the Vikings' offense are basically carbon copies.
If they can do it against Favre and Adrian Peterson, I would think they can do the same in Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood.
On offense, Arizona must protect the quarterback.
Common sense aside, the ability for the Cardinals to be effective lays in the hands of the offensive line, where time not only guarantees better throws from the QB, but allows the talented receivers to scramble if needed.
The receiving corps must be crisp in their routes and with the talent they posses, they can put Green Bay's defensive backs into fits.
Remember Plaxico Burress against Al Harris and Charles Woodson?
Finally, and possibly paramount over all, is the special teams. They must not give the Packers a short field. They key here is to keep the Packers' drives starting at the 25-yard line or less.
If anything drives a team crazy, it's consistent long drives; especially if they can't find a rhythm on offense.
On the packers side of the ball, Aaron Rodgers has shown the ability to continue what Brett Favre left him, and he has done so brilliantly. In fact he made me eat my words that I said and wrote when the Favre drama all went down.
Nonetheless, I think the key for the Packers is very simple. The running game.
Everywhere else, this team seems to have an advantage, however if the running game can't be established and the offensive line isn't giving much time to Rodgers, then look out for an upset.
Ryan Grant had a good season, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He broke the 1,000 yard mark, and scored 11 TDs; however Ryan Grant can't afford to have another game like he did against the NY Giants in the NFC championship game where he rushed for a whopping 29 yards.
What concerns me here is that Ryan Grant is somewhat an enigma. He averaged 78.3 yards per game in 2009 with only 3 major rushing games.
If the offensive line and Grant lay an egg today, it will not bode well for Green Bay.
Overall I think this game will be a nail biter and not the blow out everyone thinks it will be.
I think the Cardinals are up for the challenge. I think they know what they have to do and are willing to burn every ounce of energy to do it.
This is a dangerous team because you never know what you're running into; ask Minnesota.
I have a feeling, and that feeling tells me: Arizona 23 - Green Bay 20
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