Just three weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals gave the Green Bay Packers a 38-8 thumping in a performance that reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers was wise to put behind him quickly. The point spread is currently favoring the Cardinals at -7 to advance to the NFC Championship this weekend and are hoping a repeat defensive performance will be enough to top the Packers for a second time this season.
2015/16 NFL Playoffs: Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals
Point Spread: Cardinals -7 Over/under: 50 Date: Saturday, January 16, 8:15pm ET Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Green Bay Packers
For the first time in a long time, the +7 underdog Packers offense found their groove during the Wild Card game against the Redskins. They were able to find some rhythm with their hurry up offense and improved offensive line play, which gave Rodgers the chance to find his receivers downfield. If they can play at this same up-tempo pace and keep the Cardinals from racking up another nine sacks, they could prove that it’s hard to beat the same team twice in the same year.
The Packers defense didn’t play all that badly against Arizona in Week 16 and are likely to have Sam Shields in the lineup this time around to defend the pass. With increased depth in the secondary, the front seven can focus on stuffing the run and building off of their six sack performance against Washington. Green Bay is likely to give up plenty of yardage against the high-flying Cardinals, but can keep the score within reach for the offense by continuing their trend of holding offenses to field goals in the red zone.
The -7 favored Cardinals defensive line made it look easy in Week 16, giving the Packers little to no room to operate on offense. With the talented pass rush and deep secondary, expect heavy blitzing on Arizona’s part to disrupt any chance the Packers might have to settle in. More importantly, they’ll need to focus on not allowing Eddie Lacy or James Starks to get rolling, as the two have been putting up big numbers for Green Bay on the ground. Holding the running game would go even further to neutralizing the pass.
Carson Palmer is coming off the best season in his 12 years in the league and is poised to earn his first post-season win against the Packers. Look for the Cardinals to establish balance early, working the running game to set up the league’s second best passing attack. They’ll look to exploit a defense that has had issues covering the middle of the field, and what better way to do so than with a duo of receivers that have topped 1,000 yards receiving with Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown.
NFL Divisional Playoff Prediction
It’s hard to believe the score will be as lopsided as it was a few weeks ago, but don’t expect the Packers offense to be firing on all cylinders after one good game against a lesser opponent. The Cardinals are simply better from top to bottom at this point and should be able to beat Green Bay and advance to the conference championship.