NFL Playoff Predictions: Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
I know it’s wrong to count the reigning NFC champions out of the mix in the first round of the playoffs, but I have to go with the team that seems to be playing some of the best football in the conference at this moment. And after the Green Bay Packers shellacked the Arizona Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday, I have very little reason to believe that the Packers won’t come away with another win this week.
Packers offense vs. Cardinals defense
The Packers offense is one of the most formidable ones in the NFL. As we enter the playoffs, the Packers are averaging the 6th most yards (379.1) per game, and they scored more points than all but two teams in the league. With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Cardinals will have to defend every inch of the field. I don’t think they can do that, nor have they shown that they can do that. Against teams that can stretch the field horizontally and vertically, the Cardinals have struggled, giving up big games to the Colts, Texans, Panthers and most recently, the Packers in Week 17. I know everyone is geeked over that Cardinals defensive line and Darnell Dockett, but they have been exposed by some offensive lines, and that is going to be the case against Green Bay.
As for stopping the run, the Cardinals might have a better chance at that. While Ryan Grant put up good numbers this season, the majority of them were against poor teams, as his rushing average against playoff-caliber teams was below 4 in all but 2 occasions this season.
Cardinals offense vs. Packers defense
This is where the Cardinals have a chance to even up the game. They have one of the most formidable passing attacks in the league, and their running game did start to pick up at the end of the season with Chris Beanie Wells putting up decent numbers. Still, one has to wonder how good they will be if Anquan Boldin isn’t a full-go on Sunday Night, as he was dinged up in the team’s seasons finale. But if Boldin is 100% for the playoffs, then they should have no problem moving the ball through the air.
I know the Packers have a great passing defense, having finished first against the pass and second overall. Still, these are the Cardinals, and these are the Cardinals in warm weather. I think it’s going to be hard for the Packers to defend Larry Fitzgerald, even if Charles Woodson is on him. With a healthy Boldin in the slot, the Packers won’t have many answers for the Cardinals short passing game either. So while I could allow the Packers defense of the Cardinals in Week 17 lead me to believe that they can shut down this Cardinals passing attack, I’ll stick with the talent, and say that the Cardinals passing game will prevail this weekend.
Even thought the Cardinals offense should move the ball against the Packers, the Packers defense will probably look better than the Cardinals defense at the end of the day. And I still believe that defense wins championships. Heck, we saw it in the Super Bowl last year. Without that interception return by James Harrison, or the Cardinals inability to get a stop on that final drive by the Steelers, Arizona wins that game. But defensive plays, or lack thereof, determined the Cardinals fate that night, and it will determine it again on Sunday. Thus, it is my prediction that in a game between two potent offenses, the team with the better defense wins the game. As a result, I like the #2 ranked Green Bay Packers defense to win on the road and advance to the second round of the NFC playoffs.