The matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals in a NFC Divisional Playoff Game on Saturday night should be much better this time around, as opposed to the 38-8 thrashing the Packers took in Week 16 in Arizona. That’s what NFL scout Chris Landry said on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show on Wednesday.
I didn’t have an opportunity to talk to Landry during the show like I normally do. Just last week on the show, Landry and I talked about defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s departure from the University of Wisconsin and the week prior to that about the issues with the offensive line of the Packers.
Fortunately even without my call, Duemig asked Landry about the matchup between the Packers and the Cardinals this week in Glendale, Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“The ability to run the football is the key for Green Bay,” Landry said. “If they do that, they slow down the pass rush. That’s the formula. I expect them to play better. A lot better than they played the last time these two teams met a few weeks ago, where Arizona’s defense scored more than Green Bay’s offense could score.
“But I don’t see it [a Green Bay win] being ultimately successful. I think Arizona has the better team. It’s going to have to be a great performance by Green Bay. But I expect them to play well. And I expect it to be a closer game.
“But running the football consistently is the key. If they can, than Aaron Rodgers can make plays. There’s no doubt. As I’ve said, the defense of Green Bay probably doesn’t get enough credit keeping them in there a lot of times [while the offense has struggled]. I give them a puncher’s chance, but certainly I like Arizona.”
I agree with a lot of what Landry said about the game. The game should be much closer. If for nothing else, the Packers might have their entire starting offensive line available for the game.
That wasn’t the case the last time the two teams met. Left tackle David Bakhtiari wasn’t able to play due to an ankle injury and Don Barclay started in his place instead. The results were dreadful, as Barclay gave up four and a half sacks.
In addition to that, right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed most of the second half with an ankle injury and was replaced by Josh Walker. The results again were horrendous. The performance by Walker was so bad that the Packers ended up putting in JC Tretter to take his place at right tackle.
Tretter stopped the bleeding in that game for the most part at right tackle. Plus his performance last week in the NFC Wild Card Game against the Washington Redskins at left tackle, lets the Packers know that they have someone who can at least hold down the fort somewhat if either Bakhtiari or Bulaga can’t play.
Tretter has gotten a lot of playing time this year, mostly at center when Corey Linsley was injured due to another ankle injury. While at center, Tretter performed admirably in Linsley’s absence. And except for an early sack for a safety last week versus the Redskins, Tretter also played very well at left tackle.
While nothing is for certain, it appears that Bakhtiari will be available to start at left tackle, as he practiced on both Wednesday and Thursday. That would be huge, at least based on the carnage which happened in the first matchup on December 27.
In that game, Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns).
If the Packers can protect Rodgers this Saturday night against the Cardinals similar to how they protected No. 12 against the Redskins, he should have a big game. Against Washington, Rodgers was sacked just that one time for a safety and was hit only one other time, as he threw two touchdown passes without throwing a pick.
That’s an interesting comparison. Why? The Redskins had more sacks (38) than the Cardinals (36) during the 2015 season, even with the nine sacks the Cardinals had in their game against the Packers.
But as Landry says, running the football productively is the formula for success in the playoffs for the Packers. When the Packers went 4-0 in the postseason after the 2010 season and won Super Bowl XLV, the running game really clicked.
Yes, it’s true that Rodgers was terrific that postseason for the Packers, but so was James Starks, who gained 315 yards to lead all NFL rushers in the playoffs that year.
Because the game got out of hand so quickly the last time the two teams met, it was hard to get a real gauge on the running game of the Packers. But for the most part, it was successful.
Eddie Lacy rushed for 60 yards on just 12 carries. Starks only rushed for 11 yards, but that was because he was pulled from the game after a fumble.
The Packers need to do the same thing they did against the Redskins. Keep running the football. Sooner or later, the ground game will be successful.
That will certainly help Rodgers. And Rodgers knows how to get the job done in the postseason, unlike his counterpart Carson Palmer of the Cardinals.
Palmer had a terrific season in 2015 and he will get some votes for NFL MVP, but he has a very short resumé in the postseason.
Let’s compare what both Rodgers and Palmer have done at crunch time in the playoffs.
Rodgers is 7-5 in the postseason, which includes a victory in Super Bowl XLV, when No. 12 was MVP of the game. The record is a bit misleading when on looks at the stats Rodgers has put up.
Rodgers has thrown 25 touchdown passes versus seven picks for 3,193 yards. That adds up to a 100.3 passer rating, which is fourth all-time in NFL annals.
Meanwhile, Palmer has only played in two postseason games and he has lost them both as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.
In the first playoff game that Palmer played in the 2005 postseason vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, the former USC Trojan star completed a 66-yard pass early in the game, but also suffered an ACL tear on the very same play which knocked him out of the contest.
In his second game against the New York Jets in the 2009 postseason, Palmer did not play well. He completed just 18-of-36 passes for 146 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. His passer rating for that game was 58.3.
This is not to say Palmer will play badly this Saturday night. He played well against the Packers in late December when he threw for 265 yards with two touchdown passes versus one pick. His passer rating in that game was a sparkling 107.8.
But with Palmer, you never know what you are going to get. The very next week after the big win against the Packers, Palmer and the Cardinals looked horrible against the Seattle Seahawks at home, when they lost 36-6.
Palmer was just 12-of-25 for 129 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception.The passer rating for No. 3 was just 60.2 against Seattle.
Now Palmer does have one of the best set of wide receivers in the NFL, with Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd.
The group will be going up against a secondary that has played very well this year and might be bolstered by the return of Sam Shields. No. 37 practiced on both Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to be cleared from the concussion evaluation process after missing the last four games.
That would be a huge development for the Packers. If the secondary can play well and the pass rush can be as effective as it was last week (six sacks) against the Redskins, the Packers will have more than a fighting chance against the Cardinals.
I agree with Landry that the fifth-seeded Packers need to have a great performance on Saturday night for a chance to win against the second-seeded Cardinals. In all phases of the football game…offense, defense and special teams.
The stars are lining up for what could be a memorable spectacle for the Packers. The game on Saturday night is reminding me of the 2010 postseason matchup the Packers had when they played the No. 1 seed Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome in a NFC Divisional Game.
The Packers had lost to the Falcons in the 2010 regular season in Atlanta, but in the playoff game versus the Dirty Birds, the No. 6 seeded Packers shocked the NFL world by whipping the Falcons 48-21.
Rodgers probably played the finest game of his career in that game, which was also played on a Saturday night. Rodgers completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdown passes and zero interceptions. The passer rating for Rodgers in that game was an amazing 136.8.
If that wasn’t enough, Rodgers also rushed for a touchdown in that game.
Now I’m not saying that Rodgers will have another game like that on Saturday night, but I do believe he will play very well.
The last time he played a postseason game in Arizona, Rodgers threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns, when the Packers lost to the Cardinals 51-45 in overtime in the 2009 postseason.
The bottom line is that I believe the Packers have a real chance to shock the NFL world again this Saturday night. Almost every NFL pundit I’ve heard or seen believes the Cardinals will win.
Of course, they all said the same thing when the Packers played the Falcons in the 2010 postseason.
We shall see what happens, but I would not be surprised if the Packers move on to the NFC Championship Game after the clash on Saturday night.