As we head into the weekend’s Divisional Round NFL playoff games, especially the Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals, we take a closer look at predictions being made by the experts across the media world.
While the greatest majority are going with the Arizona Cardinals to move on to the Champsionship Game, not all are picking the Cardinals. There is a small majority who seem to see something in the Packers chances.
So, without further ado, check out what others are saying about the game …
Yes, the Cardinals were smacked around by the Seahawks two weeks ago.
The week before, however, it was the Cardinals doing the smacking.
The smack-ee? None other than the Green Bay Packers.
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In Week 16, the Cardinals demolished the Packers, 38-8, in a game where the Redbirds defense scored more touchdowns than the Packers offense.
Of course, to hear Arizona head coach Bruce Arians tell it, the Cardinals barely escaped against Green Bay.
First, while speaking with on a conference call with reporters, Arians said “that was a game where the ball bounced our way a couple times. For most of the game, it could have gone either way.”
Mind you, this was a game where Packers head coach Mike McCarthy pulled Aaron Rodgers after eight sacks in the interest of keeping Rodgers’ head attached to his neck.
Then Arians told 98.7 FM in Phoenix (via Fox Sports’ Tom Torrisi) that he expects a much tougher go of it when the two teams meet again Saturday night.
“It will be a different team this time around,” Arians said. “They obviously got a little confidence after the way they played (against Washington), and they got some healthy offensive linemen back which will make a big difference in the game.”
I’ll give Arians that; this game will be different. Tougher, even—in that Arizona probably won’t put 31 unanswered points on the board to open the contest.
But the Cardinals didn’t just beat the Packers a few weeks ago. They destroyed them. Dominated every facet of the game on both sides of the ball.
The Packers may be better, but they aren’t that much better.
Apparently the oddsmakers in Vegas agree.
After all, as ESPN.com’s David Purdum wrote, they have not only installed the Cardinals as the favorites to win this game, but also as the favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of Super Bowl 50.
And you can’t do the latter without first accomplishing the former.
Cardinals: Davenport, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
The odds are heavily against another blowout, and the Cardinals say they know they didn’t get the Packers’ best shot. They said all the right things, too, leading up to a 30-point loss to Seattle in the final game of the regular season and then appeared disinterested. But I think they are sincere this time. This game will be closer than the first, but the Cardinals win it.
Cardinals 30 Packers 24
The Cardinals used steady excellence to earn this home game and the bye last week, and they enter the game confident and rested. Those are two big factors against a Green Bay team that recovered its mojo, for one week at least, against Washington. There is no doubt Arizona has the weapons necessary to pile up some points against Green Bay, provided the Cardinals can get rolling again quickly.
The Packers, meanwhile, are pleased to have rebounded from two straight losses with a good performance against Washington. The question for Green Bay is whether it fattened up against a weaker opponent from a lousy division, or if it has turned the season around and is ready to make an improbable run to Super Bowl 50 from the wild-card spot. That would be a nice story, but the Packers have too many question marks to overcome a strong Arizona team that is playing at home.
Cardinals 31, Packers 24
Joe Giglio: The Packers looked to regain some swagger last week, but let’s not forget who that opponent was. The Redskins, while a solid team, were 9-7 and hadn’t beaten a team over .500 all year. Now comes a major step up in class against a team that is off a bye. It won’t be as ugly as 38-8, but Aaron Rodgers can only do so much against a better roster.
Cardinals 33, Packers 23
Eliot Shorr-Parks: The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, which give them a chance in any game. The Cardinals, however, have the better offense, defense and special teams.
Cardinals 35, Packers 24
Mark Eckel: Aaron Rodgers and the Pack showed last week they weren’t as finished as a lot of people thought. They’re going to have to be a lot better this week on the road off a short week against a team that blew them out a few weeks ago. Green Bay keeps it closer, but not close enough.
Cardinals 27, Packers 20.
James Kratch: It will be closer than the regular season meeting. But the Cardinals are a vastly superior football team, and they will demonstrate that again.
Cardinals 31, Packers 23
Darryl Slater: It’s pretty amazing that Carson Palmer, who just turned 36, is having a career year (35 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a 104.6 quarterback rating). Aaron Rodgers and that Green Bay offense did just fine Sunday in Washington. But here comes a better defense. (Arizona finished third in the NFL in defensive DVOA, according to Football Outsiders, while Washington was 21st.) The Cardinals will get their first playoff win since 2009.
Cardinals 27, Packers 24
Dom Cosentino: This is going to be the best game of the weekend. The Cardinals miss Tyrann Mathieu, but not that much.
Cardinals 34, Packers 31
Matt Lombardo: The Cardinals might not make it to the Super Bowl, but they are the most talented team in the NFC. Carson Palmer and his myriad of weapons put on a fireworks show in the desert.
Cardinals 30, Packers 21
The matchup will come nearly three weeks after Arizona and quarterback Carson Palmer throttled and stomped the Packers 38-8 in Week 16 of the regular season, also on their home turf. The Cardinals walloped Rodgers for eight sacks and hit him another 12 times while forcing four turnovers and limiting Green Bay to a measly 178 total offensive yards even with first-team All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu out due to a torn ACL.
With running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks each scoring touchdowns and netting 116 of the team’s 141 rushing yards, Rodgers lit up Washington for 210 yards and two touchdowns for a 35-18 win and the right to play Arizona for the third time in postseason history.
But this year Arizona looks even stronger, and it nearly captured the top seed in the conference. Palmer registered a career-high 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns to 11 interceptions for a 104.6 passer rating and Arizona owned the second-highest scoring offense in the league with 30.6 points per game.
However, the Packers might have found their stride, in particular on defense. Green Bay limited Washington to 84 rushing yards after holding previous opponents to 119.1 yards per game, and sacked quarterback Kirk Cousins six times when it took the final three games of the regular season to equal that amount.
Still, Arizona’s been far more formidable on the defensive side of the ball as well. Led by linebacker Calais Campbell and the now hurt Mathieu, the Cardinals were fifth in the NFL in total defense, seventh in points allowed per game, sixth against the run, and eighth against the pass, all while forcing 33 turnovers and holding opponents to a 35.7 success rate on third down.
Green Bay 33 Arizona 27
Ultimately after what we saw yesterday it’s hard for me to believe that Mike McCarthy will incorporate the running game early because he has to much faith in Aaron Rodgers ability to throw the ball that he will not adjust until he sees that Rodgers can’t find a way to throw the ball. By the time he decides to adjust it will already be to late.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
|Ryan Van Bibber