Aaron Rodgers had a phenomenal Wild Card Weekend, but Saturday Night he’ll return to the scene of his worst game of the season in which he was sacked eight times and saw his offense get scored on twice following strip sacks. The Arizona Cardinals are heavy 7.5 point favorites for Saturday Night, and without Devonta Adams it’s tough to not see why considering the most recent history.
The Packers and Rodgers outscored the Redskins 35-7 after falling behind 11-0, but this defense is a lot different than the one they faced a week ago. Not only is this defense a lot stronger, but the Cardinals are rested and winners of the best division in football. The Packers got a nice opening matchup for the playoffs, but now the teams that played the best football in the regular season are coming off byes and at home which is usually a recipe for success.
Now while the Cardinals defense is clearly the strong suit of the team the offense is no slouch either with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Co. The Packers got a lot of pressure on Kirk Cousins last Sunday, but a healthy Carson Palmer is as good as any quarterback in the NFL right now. The Cardinals got to the playoffs last year and nearly beat the Panthers in the Wild Card Game with their third string quarterback. It would’ve been a different outcome had they had Palmer under center. This year they do and the results are being what we’ve expected.
The Packers defense is going to need to get pressure on Palmer much like they did Cousins a week ago with Clay Matthews being a big part of that equation. Matthews looked great in Washington as they moved him around the defensive formation a lot to confuse the offensive line. The Cardinals offensive line isn’t particularly stout having given up 25 sacks this year. The Packers have gotten to the quarterback already six times in this postseason, and 43 during the regular season. The game a few weeks ago should be an aberration and the Packers will make it a lot tighter than the meeting they had in Week 16.
However it’s hard to see Green Bay derailing this Cardinals team that has a ton of confidence and momentum heading into this game. They just beat Green Bay, the Packers have been a Jekyll & Hyde team all year, and unless the Packers cause a lot of unforced errors on the Cardinals it’s not going to be enough. I see a close game in which Green Bay keeps it within a touchdown, but it’s hard to imagine them going into the desert and advancing to the NFC Championship a week from Sunday.