By Danny Cox
The Green Bay Packers started off the season red-hot and then faded further and further back into the middle of the NFC and some even wondered if they would make the playoffs. They lost the final game of the season which gave the division title to the Minnesota Vikings. After the Wild Card Round, the Packers are moving on after an impressive victory over the Washington Redskins and the Vikings are going home.
The Arizona Cardinals need to make sure not to underestimate a team that many had written off just a few weeks ago.
Their regular season record ended at 10-6 with a two-game losing streak to end 2015, but the Packers made it into the Wild Card Round and have now made it into the Divisional Round. After an impressive victory over the Redskins, the Packers will try to actually shake off what happened in Week 16 when they lost 38-8 to the Cardinals.
Green Bay Packers on Offense
Obviously, the Packers are led and guided by Aaron Rodgers, who had yet another stellar season and looked fantastic in the win over the Redskins. Green Bay’s offense is centered around the passing game. Eddie Lacy and James Starks are good on the ground, but they aren’t great and the Packers are really not well known for what they can do in the running game.
Through the air, the Cardinals will need to keep their eyes primarily on James Jones, but Randall Cobb’s quickness is scary. Both are primary targets for Rodgers and need to be watched at all times.
Green Bay Packers on Defense
The Packers are good at forcing turnovers and they have a lot of ball-hawks on the defensive side of things. 16 interceptions as a team with 12 forced fumbles (six recovered) means that the Cardinals need to focus on ball protection.
Carson Palmer really needs to have his offensive line protecting him and watching his back. Green Bay racked up 43 sacks in 2015 with 10.5 of them coming from Julius Peppers alone. Clay Matthews has 6.5 sacks on the season and continues to lead a squad that puts a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and is always in the offensive backfield.
Green Bay Packers’ Players to Watch
While the offense does have a lot of weapons, it’s hard to look anywhere other than Aaron Rodgers. If all eyes aren’t on him, he’s going to tear the Cardinals apart. Rodgers doesn’t turn the ball over a lot, but he does get sacked a lot (46 times in 2015). He cannot be left without pressure or he’s just going to put on a clinic.
On defense, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is all over the field and wherever the ball goes. He led the Packers in tackles with 100 total in 2015 while also racking up three sacks and picking off two passes. He’s a leader on the field, but if he gets too worked up or frustrated, he will start making foolish penalties and mistakes.
Arizona absolutely dominated Green Bay just a couple of weeks ago in one of the worst losses in Aaron Rodgers’ career. If the Cardinals play with that same intensity, grit, and talent…then they can do the exact same thing they did to the Packers in Week 16. The thing is, the Cardinals cannot come out and just expect to do that or the Packers will open it up in a heartbeat.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.