Aaron Rodgers is a fantastic 3rd down QB. So it’s not a stretch to say he’s likely quite comfortable at this point handling blitzes – and our RB, TEs and O-Linemen are good at picking up blitzes. But Rodgers and co better be ready for blitzes Sunday. AZ will be bringing them from all over the place – if they don’t, I’ll be shocked. AZ had some very good defensive games this year and usually, the defense was at its best when blitzing effectively. D-Coordinator Billy Davis is a rising talent. So I hope McCarthy has some quick slants, screens, emergency dump off passes and even some deep-against-single-coverage-quicker passes drawn up just in case.
The Packers must remember that AZ is a really, really good team. AZ essentially made the playoffs weeks ago. So they have been coasting into the postseason for a while now. They will be ready to play.
Speaking of pressure, pressure on Warner will be huge. BUT, and this is a big but (like a Rex Ryan type butt), the best situation would be to not have to blitz constantly to get that pressure. I’m hoping a fair amount of pressure can come from the 3 down linemen and a LB or two coming at Warner. And importantly, Warner is slow, very slow. So, Matthews alone could cause him fits if he is able to flush him from the pocket or even fluster him slightly making Warner throw it away. But big-time blitzing just to blitz (like the Eagles did in the first half against the Cowboys tonight – or like Bob Slowik did a few years ago when the Pack played Indy in Indy) is not the answer. Carefully drawn up blitzes that are tough to recognize will be needed because Warner is a savvy old vet.
The injury to Anquan Boldin is big. I know they managed to win last year without him for a stretch in the playoffs, but his absence in this game will be big in particular as he Pack isn’t particularly deep at CB.
The Pack cannot let Beanie Wells get rolling. Hightower will have his 2-3 yard carries here and there and shouldn’t hurt us. But if Wells starts getting into the game, we need to watch out. He is a really good RB who at his best can run right through just about anyone. One way to upset his momentum though, is with a timely strip. Make him fumble and he’s not the same guy.
The Cards defense gave up 4.5 yards per carry this season to RBs. That’s not good. Ryan Grant, who seems to be a different player in the second half of a season, could have a huge game. For some reason, I can see him breaking a few long ones in this game.
We have some playmakers who need to get the ball in big games – Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley all need their fair share of targets. At the same time, both DRC (Rogers-Comrartie) and Bryant McFadden are quality corners who will likely draw Jennings/Driver – so it is not only possible but likely that the Pack will look to take advantage of the match-ups Finley/Jones/Nelson are likely to draw.
Last Sunday, Tramon Williams came to play. He had a nice hit and a few pass break-ups – and overall he seemed fired up. If he plays at a high level, we could frustrate Warner. Same with Jarrett Bush…yes, Jarrett that Bush. He’s been more active lately in positive ways. There are plenty of negative things still said about him (and mostly justifiable), but at some point, I wonder if he’s going to be picked on until he makes someone pay. I know many of you are rolling your eyes at my apparent crack use, but I keep going back to the offseason when there were apparently several teams who wanted him badly – and were willing to pay for him. Maybe this will be the big game where he shows people he’s better than his reputation.
Atari Bigby asserted himself in the second half of the season. Not only has he added the stabilizing presence friend Mike predicted he’d add when he returned to health earlier this year (9-3 in games Bigby played this year), but he’s made a few fairly athletic plays in recent weeks reminding me a bit of the guy we all thought he’d develop into after the 2007 playoff run. So, while Woodson gets tons of deserved attention, Collins plays great/makes Pro Bowls and people seem to spend a lot of time wondering how Tramon will play – it seems not many are talking about Bigby and the potential that he could be a factor in this game. One way to to render the AZ WRs less effective of course, would be a couple monster hits from Bigby. Just ask the 2007 Seahawk WRs.
Packers 37, Cardinals 24.
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I guess that makes us 2 for 2 on nervous people in Idaho. I could really use a repeat of last week with the Pack wrapping it up early, but I doubt it will be that easy. I think that despite the AZ weapons, we are the better team right now. I guess what I fear are the fluky plays that can swing a close game. Hope Rodgers plays loose and that McCarthy can get him some easy throws early to get his rhythm going. I don’t want him so amped that he comes out throwing high. GO PACK!
Nervousness here in Canada too! GB should win, I have no doubt about that, but unless they get up early (like last week) it’ll be close throughout. I can’t see an AZ blowout…GB has been “in” every game this season, including the loses to the Queens. My worst fear is a start (by that I mean the 1st half) like the Queens games where we had to come back from a significant deficit. One way to avoid that is to make sure Special Teams are solid from the get-go.
Solid Secondary performance coupled with appropriate pressure up front will take care of Warner. Patience and O-Line protection will take care of GB’s offense. I also like Grant to keep AZ honest and to break a few good runs too.
Packers will lose only if they come out with another TB style game. That is turn the ball over, play without aggressiveness and have a crapy ST performance. The later is what I worry about most. They have been good the last three weeks, but my confidence level in them is still low.