On Sunday the 4-4 Arizona Cardinals visit Lambeau Field to take on the 5-3 Packers.
The records don’t really tell the whole story in this one though. The Cardinals are standing at 4-4 because they have lost their last four games. The Packers have a 5-3 record because they have won their last three games in a row.
Something’s got to give in this one. Streaks don’t get much more different than the ones these teams are on right now.
The Packers need the win just to keep their position right behind the rival Chicago Bears, who lead the NFC North at 6-1.
The Cardinals need the win just to be able to stay within striking distance of NFC West-leading San Francisco at 6-2.
Injuries will once again test the Packers depth. Unable to go this week are WR Greg Jennings (sports hernia surgery), LB Nick Perry (knee), and DB Charles Woodson (broken collarbone). FB John Kuhn (hamstring), CB Sam Shields (ankle), DL Jerel Worthy (concussion), WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring), and DB Jerron McMillian (back) are all likely to sit this one out as well.
DL Mike Neal might, however, be able to play..
The Cardinals are relatively healthy, but they are missing their starting QB Kevin Kolb. Backup QB John Skelton will start against the Pack.
Here are some of the things I’ll be watching during the game:
• When the Cardinals are on offense in this game I’ll be looking for OLBs Clay Matthews and Erik Walden to have some success against the Arizona offensive tackles. Whichever Packers OLB is not being double teamed should be able to beat his opponent one-on-one and get to Cards QB Skelton.
Again this week the Green Bay receivers will in large part determine the overall success of the offense. WRs Jones, Cobb, Driver, and Boykin, along with the TEs, will have to do a better job of catching the ball. Not surprisingly, the Packers are perilously close to the bottom of the league in drops percentage this season. Hopefully WR Jordy Nelson will sit this one out and take the extra time over the bye to get his hamstring fully healed.
The Packers might finally let RB James Starks loose in this game. The run game, and the lack thereof, has definitely been mentioned aplenty this week in the media, and sooner or later the Packers must improve their running attack. Rumors of trades for RBs like Rams RB Stephen Jackson proved untrue. James Starks and Alex Green in tandem might be a workable solution, perhaps even effective, but we won’t know until we see it in action. Hopefully on Sunday.
Defensively the Packers seem to have been feeling their way through the last couple of games. One series the D will go three-and-out and they look good doing it. The next series they’ll give up big plays and allow points they shouldn’t have allowed. Breakdowns in coverage have been too frequent. “How did he get that open?” has been heard from Packers fans this year more than usual. We’re still waiting for another dominant defensive effort. The Packers, even missing key players, are capable of shutting Arizona’s offense down. I’ll be looking for them to do just that.
Also feeling their way are the Packers offensive linemen. They’re talented. They’re experienced. But they’re far too inconsistent. The Cardinals can be expected to blitz early and often in this game. It’s what they do. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has made teams pay dearly for employing that kind of approach, torching teams when they send more than four routinely. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- get the running game going and the offensive line will look a whole lot better when tasked with protecting Rodgers.
Last week the Packers special teams pulled off a blocked punt for a touchdown- something no Packers team had done since 1990. I think they have another big play in them this week. A kickoff or punt returned for a touchdown would sure go down smooth!
Packers running backs will (finally) rack up over 100 yards, and RB James Starks will outrush RB Alex Green. Let’s just hope QB Aaron Rodgers doesn’t lead the team in rushing average this week. Again.
The Pack defense will force two turnovers- an interception by CB Tramon Williams and a fumble by Cards QB Skelton. Recovered by LB Clay Matthews.
The Packers offensive play selection will be closer to 50/50 run/pass than it has been all season.
Green Bay outside LBs will total four sacks. LB Erik Walden, if left one-on-one on his side, could get three of them.
Packers WR Randall Cobb’s performance in this game will earn him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
On a personal note, my ancestral and childhood home of Brigantine, New Jersey was devastated by Hurricane Sandy this week. My memories of growing up on Brigantine Island simply don’t allow me to look at the images of the damage caused by the storm with anything other than disbelief. The entire Northeast was affected by the storm, but many of the beach communities like Brigantine were simply wiped away. Please keep the people everywhere dealing with the aftermath of Sandy in your prayers and if you can help in any other way at all please do so.
We’ll be attending the regular watch party at Tailgator’s on FM1488 in Magnolia this week. You know you want to see the game. Watch it with us and a bunch of our closest Packers fan friends. Stop on by!
Go Pack GO!