This is part four of my NFL playoff preview series. To read any of the other three click on the appropriate link:
This game is easily the game that I have the least interest in from the wild card round. It will be a battle between two pass happy teams, which should make it a good game to watch. I’d expect both teams to have around 300 yards through the air and at least two passing touchdowns for each. I’d also venture to say each quarterback will have at least one interception, but Kurt Warner is more likely to throw more than one because of the impressive Green Bay secondary.
The Cardinals lost to the Packers just one week ago in a 33 to 7 routing. They played a very basic defense and kept the offense simple as well. They also played much of the game with the backups so that game shouldn’t be looked at for much of an indication for how this week’s game will go.
The Packers will look to blitz Kurt Warner in an attempt to keep the Arizona offense from getting in a rhythm. Once the Cardinals offense gets into a flow the Packers could be in trouble. When the Packers have to go into nickle and dime defensive sets their corners struggle in man-to-man coverage. This is especially a problem against the Cardinals because they have to many receiving weapons.
If the Packers blitz too much then they will leave those corners on an island, which is a vulnerability that Warner will likely exploit. If they don’t blitz it will be easier for the Cardinals to get clicking. So they need to be wise with their selections with how, when and who does the blitzing.
On the flip side the Packers have struggled all year to keep Aaron Rodgers clean. This must change for them in this game if they want to win. If Ryan Grant can establish the run game early it will help the cause by setting up play action fakes.
The Cardinals need to make plays on the defensive side of the ball. Last year during their playoff run it was their risk-taking, advantageous defense that helped them get to the Super Bowl. If they can find that in themselves again it will help them out a ton. Just like the Packers, the Cardinals will need Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells to get the run game going to set up the play-action. They also need to be sure to not fumble, because the Packers defense is extremely opportunistic.
I think that the turnover battle in this game will be of unparalleled importance. The Cardinals cannot let the Packers force them into making mistakes, they instead must force the Packers into using their nickle and dime packages. If they fail to dictate this aspect of the game it will be a big problem for them.
Look for a lot of big plays, a lot of scoring and a lot of gambles from both defenses.
Cardinals win it 28 to 24.
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