Packers Periscope: Week 16 at Arizona Cardinals

Up Periscope against the Packers week 16 opponents, the Arizona Cardinals.  Will the Packers be able to upset the NFC's 2nd seed?

The Past

While most Packers fans will probably recall the NFC wildcard race in 2009 that ended in Aaron Rodgers fumbling the ball after getting his head turned sideways on an uncalled facemask penalty, the last game the Packers played against the Cardinals was actually in 2012 and was one of Aaron Rodgers better games.  Rodgers threw for an economical 218 yards, but added 4 touchdowns to only 1 interception, while John Skelton surpassed Rodgers with 306 yards but only got 1 touchdown to 1 interception.  Surprising for 2012 the rushing game also chipped in with 176 yards on the ground, though Rodgers contributed 33 yards on scrambles.  On defense, Erik Walden inexplicably managed to nab an interception while Mike’s Neal and Daniels each were able to record a sack.  

The Present

Overall Team Efficiency

Packers

Cardinals

14.8%

29.7%

Offense

Overall

8.0%

19.4%

Run

-4.4%

-7.0%

Pass

24.4%

49.5%

Defense

Overall

-6.8%

-12.3%

Run

-10.2%

-24.3%

Pass

-4.2%

-4.3%

Special Teams

0.0%

-2.0%

Quarterback (DYAR)

678

1,560

 

(All statistics courtesy of Football Outsiders, click here for a detailed description of DVOA and DYAR.  And as always defensive DVOA is the inverse of offensive DVOA so negative numbers are better.)  

The Packers probably haven’t faced a statistically tougher opponent all year.  While the Seahawks and Broncos were definitely teams that put good players onto the field against the Packers, both had serious flaws at the time not to mention that the Packers were statistically better in the early part of the season. 

Pretty much in every regard the Cardinals are at best comparable to the Packers and at worst blow them out of the water.  Both defenses are rather similar in reality; since the passing game is such an integral part of the NFL at the expense of the rushing game, both Cardinals and Packers have top 10 passing defenses; what really separates the two is the Cardinals dominant run defense but again that’s likely to be less important than being able to defend the pass.   On offense both teams are good at passing the ball while being poor at running it, with the Cardinals being more extreme of the two.  Perhaps the biggest difference is surprisingly in QB DYAR, where Rodgers has less than half the DYAR as Carson Palmer.  While Rodgers is undoubtedly having a down year while Palmer is likely having a career year that he’ll never be able to recreate at 35, this is probably the first time since 2008 that Rodgers has gone up against such a statistically superior quarterback.     

The Future

The 2015 Arizona Cardinals are an interesting team.  On one hand, they have been dominant all year according to football outsiders, especially in the early part of the season where they lead in both offense and defense by a staggering amount.  On the other hand, they’ve been quite inconsistent, sometimes winning by large margins and sometimes just squeaking by.   Part of their success is likely due to following the Packers offensive philosophy of a west coast offense featuring deeper passes coupled with a strong defense.  However, a deep pass offense will naturally lead to more variation in production, which might cause some of the ups and downs the Cardinals have seen.

In terms of personnel, the Cardinals have done a good job of securing their top-flight talent for the next couple of years plus adding bigger name free agents like Carson Palmer and Mike Iupati.  In the next couple of years Tyrann Mathieu is likely the next player to get a significant amount of cash, which might come at the expense of Larry Fitzgerald, who has one of the most ridiculous contracts outside of Calvin Johnson. 

While the Cardinals will likely be able to keep their salary cap low by signing a few choice top tier free agents and fielding the rest of the team with lower cost players, the big question for the Cardinals in the next couple years is how to replace quarterback Carson Palmer.  Palmer, who is 35, will likely be entering the steep decline phase of his career and every season will add to that likelihood.  At the moment, the Cardinals have Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley on deck and frankly neither is any more than a 3rd stringer at this point.  The Cardinals have likely also locked up 1st seed in the NFC so it’s highly unlikely barring a trade that they will be able to secure a top quarterback in the draft this year either.  

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Comments (8)

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mrtundra's picture

December 25, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Wasn't the 2009 game the one where Larry Fitzgerald tackled Charles Woodson in the end zone? No flag on that one, either.

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Portland Mark's picture

December 25, 2015 at 03:03 pm

I'm hoping to hear Aaron Rodgers say, "Shhhhhhh" during the post game interview just like he did in Houston in 2012

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Bearmeat's picture

December 25, 2015 at 07:34 pm

Shields is probably out. Not good. I really have a bad feeling about this game. Getting blown out isn't out of the question.

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Tundraboy's picture

December 25, 2015 at 08:04 pm

Definitely will need Shields for Arizona.

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Dan Stodola's picture

December 25, 2015 at 08:11 pm

AZ doesn't run anything resembling a WCO. Much more of the Coryell passing scheme. Arians loves to go deep, often. Far more than the Packers ever have. They generally take anywhere up to 5 or 6 shots a game, sometimes more.

With Shields the Packers might have the DB talent to play alot of man, but w/o Shields (which looks likely), I'm of the opinion they should play 2 deep zones more often than not.

That might open more running lanes for D Johnson, but they can't allow Palmer to get good looks downfeild.

AZ might be the worst team for the Packers to match up with. Need to get a strong pass rush w/o blitzing.

Merry Christmas to all my Packer brothers.

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lou's picture

December 26, 2015 at 11:58 am

Agreed on the deep pass, Palmer throws it as well as the "Mad Bomber" Daryle Lamonica used to and still has the ability with little mobility to avoid the pass rush. I am hoping Arizona is too confident, and we play them as tough as we did when Flynn got his 1st start against the Patriots, my favorite McCarthy quote of all time was before that game he said, "The Green Bay Packers are nobodies underdog". Merry Christmas to you Dan too.

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WKUPackFan's picture

December 26, 2015 at 05:37 am

Ready for cow's, D Ernesto's, and whoever this dsch.... douche's predictions of a 50 point loss, unless Santa granted my wish that they go away.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

December 26, 2015 at 10:28 am

I agree that if Shields can't go, that is a blow to GB, since Arizona has Fitzgerald, Floyd, and John Brown. Randall, Hayward, Rollins, (and Gunter?), along with the safeties, will have their hands full.

Strangely, on paper at least, Arizona has some interesting talent at TE that has not produced much at all this season. I like this Darren Fells, who played professional basketball in Europe for 4 years, and who has pushed Troy Nicklas down the depth roster. Fells has only caught 20 passes, but they tend to be for decent chunks of yards. Jermaine Gresham is a name but hasn't produced. Niklas has had a lot of injuries. Hope this isn't the game where these TEs do some damage.

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