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Underdog Packers Look to Reverse Fortunes in Arizona

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Underdog Packers Look to Reverse Fortunes in Arizona

The Green Bay Packers are not strangers to large point-spreads in recent NFC games and shouldn’t be discounted as upset winners on Saturday.  Once the two teams take the field the odds mean nothing.

The Packers travel to take on the Arizona Cardinals this Saturday in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.  The smart money favors the Cardinals who open as full touchdown favorites.  That is the widest spread of the four games.

There are compelling reasons for those placing a wager to plunk down a Benjamin or two on the Cardinals.  There is the matter of the 38 – 8 thrashing the Packers endured in week 16 of the regular season at the hands of the Cards in Glendale.  Remember that’s the one where Goliath hammered David?

Then there are also the uncertainties of the Packers injuries.  Two players who did not participate in the previous Cardinals/Packers matchup are still uncertain.  Questionable are Left tackle David Bakhtiari who remains hobbled by an ankle injury as well as the Packers best cover corner Sam Shields (concussion).  Newly injured players include CB Quinten Rollins (quad) and WR Davante Adams (knee) who is said to be doubtful for the contest.  They will need all able-bodied players active against a powerful foe.  Reserve players will have to step-up should the starters be unable to go.  A tall order against a very good football team.

But the Packers have more going for them than just a wish-and-a-prayer against the Cardinals.

The Packers come off their best performance in months when they defeated the Washington Redskins in the Wildcard Round.  The offense which sputtered early finally found traction and ended up scoring 35 points after being down by 11 early. 

The defense was stellar allowing only 16 points – not counting the two-point safety suffered by the offense early-on.  They may have found a stop-gap left tackle if Bakhtiari is once again side-lined with J.C. Tretter settling in after a shaky start.  The Packers run-stopping was stellar and the defensive backs up to the task.  Even the special teams’ play was up to the challenge.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, come off a season-ending beat-down by Division foe Seattle where Arizona was routed 36 – 6 at home.  The humbling loss was to a Seahawks team that needed divine intervention on a chip-shot field goal to defeat an upstart but over-matched Vikings club in the Wildcard Round.  Limping into the playoffs is not the way head coach Bruce Arians envisioned his team would enter the playoffs.

There is also the matter of quarterbacks.  The Packers will go to battle with the reigning MVP leading the way who is feeling better about his team than he has in months.  The Cardinals will have a veteran who will be tested in only his third post-season game.

Rodgers Playoff Experience    Palmer Playoff Experience

13 Games Played                        2 Games Played

8 – 5 Record                                 0 – 2 Record

64.78% Completion                    51.35% Completion

3193 Passing Yards                    212 Passing Yards

25 Passing TD’s                           1 Passing TD

1 INT                                             7 INT’s         

3 Rushing TD’s                            1 Rushing TD

The Packers have witnessed first-hand a few upsets of heavily favored home teams in recent years.  Unfortunately two of the most memorable were also the most painful.

In 2007 – 08 the second-seeded Packers had a bye in the Wildcard Round and then crushed the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round at Lambeau Field 42 – 20.  The next week the heavily favored (8-points) Packers hosted the fifth-seed New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.  It was a bad matchup for the Packers who went on to lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Giants in overtime (23 – 20) in what turned out to be Brett Favre’s final game as a Packer.

In the 2011 – 2012 season it was more of the same.  The Packers were the number-one seed and hosted the number-four seed New York Giants in the Divisional Round.  The Packers entered the game as 8.5 point favorites.  They ended up being crushed by the Giants 37 – 20.  Green Bay was playing in its first playoff game at home since the 2007 NFC Championship Game and lost for the second consecutive time. The Packers are now notable as being the first team to win at least fifteen regular-season games and not advance beyond their first playoff game and one of only four teams to win at least 15 games during the season and not win the Super Bowl.

This year the Packers enter the Divisional Round as big underdogs on the road where they hope to follow the lead of the New York Giants teams that ended their season twice in the past 9 years.

The Packers will be a different team this time around from the one that got steam-rolled in late December.  Their confidence will be higher after a road playoff win.  They will have put more than just an ill-fitting bandage at left tackle and hope to have their right tackle available the entire game.  The defense is playing playoff football and Mason Crosby and the special teams will be up to the task.  It is also hard to imagine that the offense would give up eight sacks and two easy fumble recoveries for touchdowns which padded that December score.

Is it enough to win?  Hard to say.  But expect a competitive game and hope that there is enough positive Karma left in Aaron Rodgers and Company to pull off the upset and advance to the NFC title game.

 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (22) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

croatpackfan's picture

Good review Jeff... There is real hope at the moment... I think we will be able to watch last season NFCCG, but this time at Lambeau! Go, Pack, go!

Tundraboy's picture

A lot of people outside of us here think our D got steamrolled last time. That's OK let them.
Go Pack Go

Bohj's picture

I like all the player quotes.
- Basically, the pressure is on the Cards
- We feel good about our team right now
- Road playoff wins are the best
- We're nobody's underdog
- Can't wait to get another chance to play them

Our team is fired up. Probably more than they have been in awhile. Sometimes all it takes is belief. Does anybody here really believe that the Giants were the best team to win those two superbowls and go on a run to beat two phenomenal Packer squads and two phenomenal Patriot squads?

Outside of those two Superbowls the giants haven't even been in the playoffs. Is Arizona better than us? Yes. More talent. More depth. Bigger body of work over the season. But they are beatable. I'm excited to watch this game. If we are competitive to the last tick on the clock, I will be super proud of the way this Packer team came together. And if we win........watch out!!!

Tundraboy's picture

Now I'm really fired up! I hope they make us proud and who knows payback for 2009 would be better yet.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Yes, I like all the quotes except the pressure is on Arizona. That is something losers say. Also, we are nobody's underdogs and the pressure is on Arizona are by and large mutually exclusive.

Bohj's picture

The pressure is on Arizona is oh so true though.
- They went 9-1 last year before Palmer blew his knee out. AZ was robbed of a magnificent season.
- They were the class of the NFC along with the Panthers all season.
- Carson Palmer has not won a playoff game
- They are at home in front of hungry fans
- They just came off of a Seattle drubbing
- They are the Favorite by a touchdown
- They are the #2 seed
- Fans of AZ believe that the Pack will be an easy out because of the previous game

So....I do believe that puts more pressure on them.
Whereas, even though the Packers don't feel like they're the underdog here....they most certainly are. If the Packers lose.....no one will blink an eye.
If AZ loses, the media will go apesh#$%.

jh9's picture

The Packers will only win this game if Aaron Rodgers is the best player on the field. I know the play of the offensive line will be important, but it has to be AR who must shrug off any missed blocking assignments, dropped passes, or wrong routes and find ways to get this offense to score more points than Arizona.

Some may say that is making unreal expectations for one player. However, AR is not just one player. He will be the highest paid player on the field playing in the most important game of the season thus far. There’s a reason he is being paid the kind of money he is and that’s because he is not expected to be ordinary. He’s paid to be extraordinary.

AR is in his prime. These are his legacy years. History will judge how great he is by the play of his games as the one that will be played against Arizona on Saturday. Yes, the Packers are a huge underdog. But it will be up to Aaron Rodgers to win this game that no one expects the Packers to win. No other player on the team has the ability to lift the Packers to a win--only Aaron Rodgers can do that.

porupack's picture

Jh9; the way I see it, the coaches are the ones most responsible for settling the odds at game time. Not only game strategy, and sequence of play calling, and inserting various packages, but preparation of all players on details, their critical assignments in all unusual situations to anticipate, managing penalties, cool heads, clock management, time outs. This game is on MM to have all players at their peak, not just AR. AR can't do it alone. As DanS has said, Packers don't match up very well with Cardinals, so theirfore the key to winning is to overcome through near flawless play, schemes, surprises, exploiting AZ weaknesses.

croatpackfan's picture

porupak, I do not agree with you. I think that Cardinals are very good team and only difference between them and Packers is Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals Jordy Nelson. If Larry Fitzgerald goes down, so do the Cardinals. I believe Packers are more talented team, yet with little less experience amongst players. We have very experienced guys and lot of 1st or 2nd year rookies...
Also, in my opinion, all parts of the team have same responsibility - from HC, over coordinators, posiotion coaches to the last player who will be on active roster that day. All of them have to bring their best to the game.
I really believe that those 8 teams are teh best 8 teams in NFL, so, differences are small and teams with less mistakes will win the game!

porupack's picture

I certainly agree with you. I think my main point was that its just not AR, and no one more important than coaches starting from the top...to have the whole team ready and every player executing assignments. Well, you say it better. Whether GB or AZ is more talented, I agree differences are slight.

Packer_Pete's picture

We are nobody's underdog...

croatpackfan's picture

I LOVE that quote!

Tundraboy's picture

48 hours + to go. Absolutely can not wait.

Tundraboy's picture

I read that Shields practiced but did not yet clear protocol. I was wondering if that means, he was still in the process of being evaluated after practice, as is the procedure. Does not indicate he failed, just that he has to clear it with each physical exercise, and at the end of practice that was still in process. Glad they are being cautious with his well being but it seems like he might be ready after all.

Bearmeat's picture

Now it looks like Rollins has a shot at playing. Assuming Shields and Bakh play, that leaves Adams as the only notable absence. GBs pass rush can and will get after Palmer, and there will be turn over possibilities hanging out there on defense. And now 2 of AZs best pass rushers are out?

IF IF IF the short passing game can even be moderately effective and we avoid turnovers, GB will win.

This is going to be a very close game.

Tundraboy's picture

That's the spirit. Other than the Quarless news, things are looking up.

FITZCORE1252's picture

Meh, he's contributed zilch this year. He wasn't going to come in and be a revelation at this point... things are still looking up.

porupack's picture

I have to admit, I'm a happier fan as an underdog than a favorite in the days leading up to game. Even more so after a loss. Detro, chigo were wrenching games based in part on expectations of easy wins.
I just enjoy a great game played. Love good football. Hoping for a great game played.

alaskan tundra's picture

I dont believe that we have played possum but I can see where we probably didnt open things up against Arizona the first time around. Especially after the game got out of hand with the strip sack fumbles. I think we are playing with house money. No pressure when everyone expects you to lose. And as much as I want to fly to Green Bay for the Championship game ( and I will ) I see the road as a better roure than home. I think we need to continue to be the underdog in this years playoffs. We should embrace it and enjoy the ride.
Go Pack Go.

croatpackfan's picture

"We are nobody's underdog!"

Tundraboy's picture

Agree. This team was written off by many after Denver. Hell, even after SD. Embrace it this year and enjoy where we are now. Anything is possible and things are looking up.

Since '61's picture

Let's remember that the Cardinals have some injured players returning as well. The Packers need to play keep away with the AZ offense. We can't fall behind and I don't think that we can win a shootout with them. I would almost prefer that the Packers slow down the game however they play better on offense when they have their up tempo going. In either case the Packers will need to play an almost perfect game. If our defense can force a couple of turnovers it could be a huge difference in this game. As usual this game will be about running the football and stopping the run. Our OL and DL will need to carry the day. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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