The Morning After: Arizona Cardinals shouldn’t fear
By Erich Becker
The Pack is coming back to face the Arizona Cardinals, but who is the team’s biggest opponent in this game?
For the first one-and-a-half quarters of the game between the Redskins and Packers yesterday Aaron Rodgers looked like the QB that has piloted the Packers this season. Unsure where to throw the ball, overthrowing, under throwing, and running for his life as the pass rush got to him, including a safety. The rest of the game, the former league-MVP showed up, but at the same time, the Washington defense started making mistakes and Rodgers made them pay.
But should the Arizona Cardinals fear the rejuvenated offense that the Packers will bring to Glendale on Saturday night? Not necessarily. Rodgers was still running for his life, but, as we saw earlier in the day in the Vikings vs. Seahawks game, when the coverage breaks down because the defense gives up their assignments to counter a running quarterback, opportunities present themselves. In fact, Washington had the advantage of a bad division, with mediocre quarterbacks that they beat up on the last few weeks of the season. Aaron Rodgers is better than Sam Bradford or whomever the Cowboys dressed that day.
The Washington defense was middle of the road and only excelled in the takeaway category.
As the Packers saw in their Week 16 match up, even without the Honey Badger on defense, the Cardinals put a tough team out there, the pass rush isn’t what it needs to be, but eight sacks of Rodgers (and nine total) accounted for a lot of footsteps in Aaron’s helmet all afternoon. The 38-8 thumping may not be indicative of what the Cardinals can do to a team they outmatch on paper, but at the very least, the Cardinals know what they are going to get from the Packers team.
Of the three opponents the red birds could have faced, the Packers may be the easier one to plan for, the Vikings took the team to task, and nearly won the game until a Dwight Freeney spin-move ended the game. The Redskins had not been into Glendale this year (but we’ll see them next year) but the offense was clearly propping that 9-7 team up. The Packers, have had a tough stretch on the offensive line and a defense that couldn’t get much pressure on Carson Palmer the last time they met.
So what are the Cardinals preparing for. Just about everything, I would hope. Green Bay is still a tough match up with a quarterback that can lead them to 30+ points even when starting slow. Still, the biggest fear in the Cardinals mind needs to be themselves.
They lost to the Seahawks in Week 17, at home, and whether or not they even tried is debatable. They’re coming into this game with a bye week behind them, out of rhythm of sorts and they need to stay on track. Rust can start to develop, and cockiness, which should have been wiped away when they got wiped by Seattle should be gone. But going into the Divisional Game on Saturday, the Cardinals’ biggest opponent will be themselves, not the Packers.
If the Cardinals can play Cardinals football that lead them to 13 wins, blowing out bad teams, playing lights out defense, and being who they really are, we can look forward to the NFC Championship, maybe even a home game if Seattle takes care of Carolina. If they come out slow, stagnate and give up more than 20 points, it may be a long day and early end to a great season.
See you on Saturday, I know I’ll be there all in red.