Shawn (12-5, 12-5 ATS) — Three weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals completely outclassed the Green Bay Packers in beating them 38-8. You’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard that about 100 times this week.
Fourteen of those 38 points were thanks to sack fumbles given up by Don Barclay, who the Packers idiotically thought could play left tackle. The Cardinals will be without their defensive MVP this time around. That alone should make this a better game.
The Cardinals remain a difficult match-up for the Packers because they have an aggressive defense that will gladly match up with the Packers’ receivers and stack the box against the run. At the same time, offensively, they can both run and throw the ball, which makes it difficult for any defense to keep them down for long.
The Packers are solid against the pass. They gave up too many big plays the first time around and will need to limit those, but if they could actually stop the run and force Carson Palmer to repeatedly throw the ball, they have a chance to be successful.
I don’t think there are any secrets here. The key to the game is Carson Palmer. The Cardinals match up well against the Packers at every position but quarterback. Palmer has had a better season than Aaron Rodgers this year. However, Rodgers has two MVPs and is generally considered the best quarterback not named Brady in the league. Palmer has mostly underachieved since being drafted as the overall No. 1.
Palmer is not a mobile quarterback and he has been known to play poorly when facing a strong rush. If the Packers can get after Palmer, they have a chance stymie the Cardinals. However, if they don’t stop the run first, they won’t get that chance. David Johnson pretty much ate the Packers up the last time they played. The Packers will have to slow him down enough to encourage the Cardinals to pass.
At the same time, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense has to do enough to take advantage of whatever the defense gives them. As I said, I expect the Cardinals to stack the box and press the receivers. With that being the case, the Packers’ receivers and Rodgers will HAVE to make some plays. They need to convert some third downs and keep the defense off the field.
If the defense has to keep going right back onto the field, it is only a matter of time.
The Packers have to control Johnson, get after Palmer and Aaron Rodgers has to have a good game. If those three things happen, then the Packers can return to the NFC Championship, which might even be at Lambeau Field.
There are plenty of reasons to doubt, but I am going with the Packers pulling it out. The defense will sack Palmer even more times than they did Cousins, and Rodgers will keep his mojo.
Packers 27, Cardinals 23
Monty (10-7, 10-7 ATS) — This game comes down to one thing for me.
If the Green Bay Packers can pressure (and sack) Carson Palmer, they’ve got a decent chance of winning, so long as they can keep Aaron Rodgers clean. Neither of those things happened the last time these two teams met.
The Packers couldn’t stop the run, so they couldn’t tee off on Palmer. They also couldn’t keep Rodgers from running for his life on every play.
You know the result.
I expect this game to be different. How different is the question.
Two recent Packers’ playoff games come to mind when I think of this one.
First, there was the game in Atlanta following the 2010 season. The Packers travelled to face the No. 1 seed and a team that had beaten them in the regular season. They blew those pretenders right out of their own building.
The main similarity I see is that I’ve never thought much of that dopey bastard Matt Ryan and I don’t think much of Carson Palmer, the Cardinals’ quarterback, either. Don’t get me wrong. I think Palmer is actually a much better quarterback than Ryan, but I don’t think he has the mettle to win in the playoffs.
And that’s an advantage for the Packers.
Second, there was the Wild Card game following the 2013 season. The Packers got the San Francisco 49ers, their tormentor, at home. We all knew the Packers were outclassed by those 49ers, but they went out and turned in a game effort and lost by just three points, 23-20.
That was a heart-breaking loss, but one we all expected. The 49ers were the better team by a pretty wide margin.
So where does this one come down?
Unfortunately, I think it comes down on the latter side.
The spread here is seven. That’s stupid. The Packers are going to make this a competitive game, so if you’re wagering, then you should definitely go with Green Bay.
I just don’t think the Packers have the talent to keep up with the Cardinals.
A win isn’t out of the question. I’m just not drinking the Kool-Aid right now.
Cardinals 24, Packers 20