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Packers vs. Cardinals: Things You Could Watch and a Prediction

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Packers vs. Cardinals: Things You Could Watch and a Prediction

The Green Bay Packers (5-3) and Arizona Cardinals (4-4) are two teams headed in opposite directions as the second half of the 2012 season opens up Sunday at Lambeau Field.

A little over a month ago, the Cardinals were 4-0 and in possession of greater than 80 percent odds of making the postseason. A four-game losing streak, in which Arizona scored just 36 points (9.0/game), has sent that sterling start up in flames.

The Packers occupy the other end of spectrum.

Since limping to a 1-2 start, Green Bay has won four of five games—including each of the last three. Over their current three-game winning streak, the Packers are outscoring opponents by over nine points a game.

According to Football Outsiders, the Packers now hold an 82.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. Arizona's chances have plummeted to just 2.4 percent. How the tides can turn during an NFL season.

Here's some other things you could watch Sunday:

 

Awareness of Washington

There's no question that Daryl Washington has been the game's best blitzer at the inside linebacker position this season. His eight sacks are third in the NFL (behind only J.J. Watt and Clay Matthews) and lead all inside linebackers.

Thursday, we profiled how Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton uses Washington in a variety of blitzing roles. Center Jeff Saturday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and each pass-protecting running backs need to know exactly where Washington is at all times Sunday.

To blitz, or not to blitz?

Defensive coordinators rarely like to completely break tendency, but Horton may be tempted Sunday. While Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that Horton blitzes on 38 percent (or more) of all downs, the blueprint for containing Rodgers and the passing offense has been generating pressure with four and dropping seven into coverage.

In the two games where defenses brought extra pressure (Houston, St. Louis), Rodgers had his best games (680 yards, nine touchdowns). Horton will have to pick his spots against a surgeon of the blitz.

Pressure from every angle

The pass-protection numbers for the Cardinals offensive line are almost hard to believe. According to Pro Football Focus, Arizona has allowed a staggering 149 quarterback disruptions (sacks, quarterback hits and hurries) over 357 passing plays this season. Indianapolis, the next worst offensive line, has 94. The Packers have just 69. The problems come at every position, but the two tackles are mostly to blame.

Right tackle Bobby Massie (13 sacks, two quarterback hits and 34 hurries) and left tackle D'Anthony Batiste (12 sacks, five quarterback hits and 34 hurries) combine to total 100 of the 149 disruptions. There hasn't been a worse pass-blocking tackle duo in the NFL since PFF began tracking games in 2008, and you could only assume that the ineptitude could actually trail back several more years.

Grounded

Will either of these teams be able to run the football Sunday? Recent history would certainly seem to indicate no.

The Packers' 26th-ranked run game (90.1 yards/game) has been the subject of much discussion since Cedric Benson (Lisfranc injury) was placed on the designated to return IR list. In three starts since Benson's injury, second-year back Alex Green has carried 64 times for just 154 yards (2.41 yards/carry). The problems running the football are multi-faceted and difficult to pin on just one player.

However, Arizona's production against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday puts anything Green or the Packers have struggled with to shame. On nine rushing attempts, the Cardinals gained just seven yards—or the least amount during a regular-season contest in over a quarter century. Without Beanie Wells (designated to return IR list) and Ryan Williams (season-ending IR) the Cardinals have simply given up on the run in some games. Arizona currently ranks 31st in the NFL per game (79.0).

Prediction

Both teams will have much-needed byes following Sunday, so expect an energetic contest. However, McCarthy was very adamant this week that the Packers need to be 6-3 heading into the bye. He went as far as to call it "non-negotiable." The players should understand that message, especially after a sloppy, uninspired win in Week 8. And while the Cardinals' fourth-best scoring defense (17.9) should keep them in the game, there simply isn't enough offense to win a game on the road. The Packers get to McCarthy's goal of 6-3, and the bye week gives Green Bay a chance to get healthy for a difficult final stretch.

Packers 24, Cardinals 9 (Season record: 3-5)

Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (20) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

We've heard that opposing tackles are bad before, and the pass rush just hasn't gotten there. (STL, SEA, IND, JAX) And yet, against the Texans and Bears we did...

You'd expect a big game from CM3 - but we expected that last week too and the week before.. and they didn't come.

Puzzling.

Evan's picture

I've noticed that too. Every time we point out the other team's terrible left tackle, CMIII seems to have a "quiet" day.

At the same time, whenever we point out the other team's dominating pass rush, our o-line seems to shut it down.

Tarynfor12's picture
FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Thinking the same thing.

razor's picture

Must be 6-3! Wow, McCarthy is one mean dude. I'm confused....He wants his team to be up after a weak performance against the Jags because a win is a win. Sounds like an excuse from the mean dude who doesn't make excuses. Wow he is mean!

Not a fan of Jermichael - hate the drops, the rants, stupid celebrations, can't get open, but I'd like to see some throws to him in the middle of the field. First drop, head for the tunnel.

Mason Crosby - next shank, head for the tunnel.

Alex Green - next trip, head for the tunnel.

Mike Neal - next boo boo, head for the tunnel.

murphy's picture

My head hurts after reading this. Thanks!

philip's picture

Sounds like you need to head for the tunnel, murph.

Denver's picture

Will be nice to see Daryn Colledge commit a few penalties while not wearing a Packer uniform.

PadLevel's picture

Wouldn't be surprised if Colledge holds his own against our pass rush. The guy has a high IQ, so you are not going to beat him with stunts and Dom's so called "packages". Our D-line is not stout to bull rush him either.

woodson4president's picture

Id love to see the d make some plays. A Tramon pick to get him goin would be great.

PackerPete's picture

I don't think anybody ever said that JAX had a bad left T. In fact, Eugene Monroe is one of the best LTs in the NFL. Problem is, Clay should've been moved around more, and if he dropped back into coverage, our pass rush got nowhere. We can't rely on one player alone to apply pressure, but that is exactly what's happening. But if they can't get pressure against the Cards OLine, then there won't be any hope...

calipackfan's picture

Mathews did put pressure on the jaguars I saw it on his video where he is wired in the game.

Mike's picture

Whats wrong with Erik Walden on obvious running plays and Moses on obvious passing plays? The rotation was starting to work with Walden and PErry, try it with Moses!! Need the rush to be evident this week. Special Teams needed to score last week for the win. I have a feeling defense will be needed to score this week for a win. It be nice to get back to the no huddle again. It worked great in St. Louis and Houston especially on those "back against the wall, must score drives" Get Boykin, Cobb, Finley and Jones going early and close it out with Starks. 27 13 Pack!

woodson4president's picture

Agreed. No D is going to mean no wins without Jordy n Greg.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I'm just wondering if we'll make Skelton look like a star as we tend to do with shitty QB's. I think this one stays close as we're just too injured. We're going to look like a different team 4-5 weeks from now, which bodes well for us.

20-13 PACK

GBP 4 LIFE

murphy's picture

I'll take a final score of 2-0 as long as the Pack wins. Stats be damned.

Lucky953's picture

Really hard to imagine Csrds can put up even 13 points. Rogers and Co are good for 20+ even w/o our stud receivers.

GBPDan's picture

I agree, Win ugly, win pretty, win no matter what, just win this game, go into the bye at 6-3, rest up and get healthy.

PackersRS's picture

There will be a lot of sacks. In the end the Cardinals' OL is slightly worse than the Packers', and Skelton is way worse than Rodgers.

It'll be a tough game to watch.

Idiot Fan's picture

I think our passing game may struggle today, but if we can't outscore Skelton behind that line then we have issues. If Dom doesn't enclose Fitzgerald in a bubble of Packer DBs, I'm going to be pissed.

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