Three weeks ago the Arizona Cardinals bludgeoned Green Bay in a shockingly one-sided 38-8 victory. Saturday evening the Packers will have an opportunity to prove that game was an anomaly as they travel to Glendale for the first of this weekend’s NFC Division Round playoff games.
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals:
Preview, Key Matchups, Betting Odds & Prediction
Who: #5 Green Bay Packers (10-6) at #2 Arizona Cardinals (13-3)
What: NFC Division Round Playoff Game
When: Saturday, January 16 at 8:15 pm ET on NBC
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale AZ
Odds: The line has been remarkably steady all week, with Arizona favored by seven points at almost all betting parlors. As of Friday afternoon the only exceptions to be found were Treasure Island (-6½) and SportBet (-7½), so consider one of those venues based on which side of a touchdown difference that you are leaning towards, or if you want to play a parlay or teaser.
Most sites list the point total at 49½, though there are a few with an over/under of 50. Money Lines vary slightly from one place to the next, with a typical ML listing Arizona -300 and Green Bay +250. Early in the week over ¾ of the money was being placed on Green Bay and well over 80% of the wagers were on the over. During the course of the week the dollars slowly but consistently shifted, to the point where 60% of the cash is now on Arizona. The point total money is still heavily leaning towards a high scoring game, with more than 70% on the over. Two-thirds of the money line dollars are backing the Cardinals as of Friday afternoon.
Head-to-Head Record: Considering the history of the two franchises, it should be of no surprise that Green Bay holds about a 2:1 advantage in the all-time series. The Packers are 46-23-4 versus the Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals in the regular season, and 1-1 in the playoffs. However, 67 of those games were played before 1991, and the Cardinals have won two of the last three. In a wild card game following the 2009 season Arizona won a shootout 51-45 with Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers combining for nine touchdown passes and 802 passing yards. The game was decided early in overtime when the Packers turned the ball over for the third time, and Karlos Dansby returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown. In the 38-8 game three weeks ago Arizona forced four turnovers and recorded nine sacks, limiting Green Bay to 77 net passing yards and 178 yards of total offense.
Green Bay offensive line vs Arizona front seven
The Packers were without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari because of an ankle injury, and then lost starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga in the nine-sack debacle three weeks ago. Both should be back for this game, and Arizona will be without OLB Alex Okafor, who was placed on Injured Reserve due to a mystery toe ailment suffered during the bye week. While the loss of Okafor hurts, even without him the Arizona front seven is still one of the best in the league.
The Packers were able to run the ball effectively last week, which – along with the hurry-up, no huddle offense – opened things up for the passing game. Bruce Arians’ defense is much better than Washington’s, and won’t be caught off guard the way the Skins were.
Green Bay receivers vs Arizona secondary
Cardinal cornerback Patrick Peterson shut down Randall Cobb in the last game, limiting Cobb to three catches for yards. Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown at Washington last Sunday, but he is out with a sprained MCL in his right knee – as is tight end Andrew Quarless. On paper it looks like the Cardinals have a decided advantage in this matchup.
Green Bay front seven vs Arizona running game
Mike McCarthy moved Clay Matthews inside to improve the run defense mid-season, with positive results. Once the Packers have a lead Matthews is shifted back outside to capitalize on his pass rushing prowess. The Cardinal offensive line is much better than it was in recent seasons, with the additions of left tackle Jared Veldheer and left guard Mike Iupati providing a significant boost to the unit. Former Patriot Ted Larsen is playing the best ball of his career, and has replaced the #7 pick of the 2013 draft, Jonathan Cooper in the starting lineup.
The Packers need to win this battle of the trenches in order to win this game. In Arizona’s losses this season they were never able to get anything going on the ground, and become one-dimensional with unfavorable down-and-distance situations. Arizona running back David Johnson can run between the tackles and also be a matchup nightmare for a linebacker out of the backfield.
Green Bay secondary vs Arizona receivers
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has developed into an accomplished playmaker in the Packer secondary, but the big question is whether or not corner Sam Shields will play. Shields is listed as questionable, but still needs to pass the league’s concussion protocol before he can take the field. Even if Shields can suit up, the advantage here goes to Arizona. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown give Carson Palmer one of the best wide receiver trios in the league, and that’s without considering the tight ends (Jermaine Gresham and Darren Fells) or running backs (David Johnson and Andre Ellington). It is imperative that Green Bay mounts an effective pass rush to give their secondary a fighting chance.
I certainly do not expect another blowout, but Arizona appears to be the superior team in nearly every aspect of this game. Matthews and Julius Peppers should create enough havoc on defense for Green Bay to keep it relatively close, but the Cardinals should be able to advance to their first conference championship game since the 2008 season.
Prediction: Cardinals 30, Packers 20
Pick: Arizona minus seven, Arizona -300
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Tags: 2015 NFL Season 2015 Playoffs Aaron Rodgers against the spread Arizona Cardinals betting line Carson Palmer Divisional Playoff game Green Bay Packers NBC NFC NFL odds picks playoffs predictions television tv