Sunday, December 27, 2015

NFL Week 16: Packers vs. Cardinals

Packers fans, our apologies for not posting a post-game review of the win against the Oakland Raiders last Sunday was a busy know, with Christmas and the sun was in our eyes. No, really, it was an unseasonably warm and (generally) sunny week overall. So, that's our excuse.

The Packers won 30-20 as the whole world knows (or at least, that part of it paying attention to the NFL)...and still there was plenty of grumbling among the Packer faithful. It was a 10-point win, and yet it didn't seem like it. You win by 10 points in the NFL, that's pretty darn good. And for the seventh year in a row, the Packers qualified for the playoffs, something that had never been accomplished before in Packers history. Imagine that!

But...the offensive inconsistency was still present and even players in the locker room seemed not to be happy with their performance. The good part was that the defense was fairly consistent, even helping the Packers jump out to an early 14-point lead via two interceptions including a pick-six TD return; those points obviously were the difference in the game. There were a couple of breakdowns which led to giving up big yardage. But the bottom line is the bottom line: a win. The good defense has been the strength of this Packers team. Thank goodness.

Cardinals to present biggest challenge yet
Second-year Cardinals WR John Brown is just one of the speedsters the Packers will have to defend today.
Photo by Getty Images, in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

There's a great article in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Packers writer extraordinaire, Bob McGinn, entitled Slow-footed Packers face severe speed deficit against Cardinals; we highly commend it to your reading time. It sets out the difference between two of the league's better teams, although McGinn's analysis -- hard to argue with -- is that the Packers are built for more of a power game, while the Cardinals are built for speed. In short, the Packers lack speed and the Cardinals don't.

What's that saying? Speed Kills? Yup, that's the one. What will that mean for today's game? We'll know when things are all said and done about eight hours from now.

While Carolina is undefeated, most pundits are saying the Cardinals are really the best team in the NFC -- if not the entire NFL -- right now. Behind veteran QB Carson Palmer and his speedy receiving corps, the 12-2 Cards are hitting on all cylinders. They are the league's top-ranked offense. The Packers will have to somehow minimize the impact of veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald and powerful and speedy running back David Johnson. The Cardinals defense ranks just behind the Packers in overall defensive ranking. They don't get many sacks, ranking 28th in that statistical category.

The Packers will be without CB Sam Shields for a second week, as well as LT David Bakhtiari who was downgraded yesterday, and LB Jayrone Elliot. Reliable veteran long-snapper Brett Goode is done for the season after tearing his ACL in last week's game. Undrafted rookie free agent Rick Lovato was signed early this last week to take his place. Let us pray.

While Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Sitton all got Pro Bowl honors this week, we're wondering if the report of an upcoming undercover probe by Al Jazeera about performance enhancing drugs and pain killers in sports -- posted online this morning and airing on TV later today -- will have an impact on some players' performances. Matthews, Mike Neal, and Julius Peppers were all named in the report. (The big name, however, was Peyton Manning who, as one would anticipate, denies the allegations.)

The Prediction
We, of course, look at the world through Green 'n' Gold-colored glasses here at Still, unless the Packers defense can somehow find a way to consistently get to Cardinals QB Carson Palmer while covering his bevy of fast receivers and the Packers offense can somehow get back to their early season 6-0 form, we just don't see this game going the Packers way today, regrettably. The Packers are 5-1/2 point underdogs in the desert. Frankly, we'd be happy to see it that close.

We're calling this one...Cardinals 34 - Packers 24.

No matter what: Go Pack Go!!!