By Danny Cox
The Green Bay Packers put together a great game to pick up a nice win over the Washington Redskins in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. It may go without saying, but the Arizona Cardinals got their first-round bye for a reason, and that’s because they played the regular season much better than many other teams in the NFL.
Now, the Packers have to get past their victory and shake off a horrible loss in Week 16 to the Cardinals, but it won’t be easy.
The Cardinals had a franchise best record of 13-3 during the regular season, and there is a lot to study for the Packers. One thing the Packers need to focus on is the regular season finale where the Seattle Seahawks handled the Cardinals and destroyed them 36-6. The Packers need to out what Arizona’s weaknesses were in that game, because they looked strong throughout the rest of 2015.
Arizona Cardinals on Offense
Arizona has a very well-balanced offense that can run and pass the ball, and do it with a lot of success. Losing running back Chris Johnson was a huge blow, but that hasn’t stopped their ground game. Rookie David Johnson has done well and was even named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Month in December.
Carson Palmer broke the team record for passing touchdowns in a season with 35 while throwing just two interceptions. With targets like Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Josh Brown, it’s really hard to be anything but productive.
Arizona Cardinals on Defense
The Cardinals were dealt a huge blow late in the season when safety Tyrann Mathieu was lost for the year with a torn ACL. Unfortunately for the Packers, the Cardinals have plenty of talent who can step up, and Patrick Peterson is still leading the secondary and entire defense.
Arizona racked up 36 sacks during the season with Dwight Freeney responsible for eight of them on his own. The Packers have to practice ball protection though as the Cardinals are turnover-minded. In 2015, they had 19 interceptions and forced 22 fumbles, recovering 14 of them.
Arizona Cardinals’ Players to Watch
On offense, the Packers have to find a way to stop wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald or it’s going to be a very long game. After a few sub-par seasons, Fitzgerald had another big one and it shows in his stats with over 1,200 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He even had at least 100 receptions for the first time since 2007.
Defensively, safety Tony Jefferson is very underrated and extremely dangerous. He has 78 total tackles on the season with two interceptions and one touchdown. He’s great on the safety blitz as well, and it shows in his three recorded sacks in 2015. Jefferson is all over the field and can disrupt a play before you even realize he’s involved.
Green Bay can win this game and they showed that by the way they manhandled the Washington Redskins in the Wild Card Round, and really did it in just three quarters. The Arizona Cardinals are a very good team, but they have flaws and they have weaknesses. It’s up to Mike McCarthy and his team to exploit them.
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.