Each Tuesday, Press-Gazette Media will look to the week ahead and the Green Bay Packers’ next opponent. This week, it’s the Arizona Cardinals. Here are three storylines to watch when the Packers travel to Arizona for their NFC divisional playoff game at 7:15 p.m. CT on Saturday.
1. Thirty points: A little more than two weeks ago, the Packers suffered their most lopsided loss with Aaron Rodgers as starting quarterback. The first quarter ended with a scoreless game, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The Cardinals scored 17 points in the second quarter, 21 points in the third, and led 38-8 entering the fourth. This was as convincing a win as you’ll see, which begs one question entering Saturday night: how do the Packers discover 30 points in three weeks? To be sure, the playoffs are a different beast. It would also help if left tackle David Bakhtiari – out with an ankle injury in the first game – were able to play. The Cardinals exploited backup left tackle Don Barclay for four sacks, forcing two fumbles returned for touchdowns. The Packers will study the film this week, and they’ll see a lot of things that went wrong in a blowout loss. They’ll also see a scoreless game at the end of the first quarter, and maybe that can generate some belief.
2. A lasting revival: A lot can change in two weeks, and there is perhaps one significant difference between this Packers team and the group that headed to Arizona in late December. Back then, the Packers were in a drought as dry as the Sonoran Desert. They hadn’t been explosive for weeks. Points were scarce. Finally, they had a breakout last week in Washington. The Packers scored 35 points in their wild-card win, their second most this season. The only other time they scored more than 30 points was in a September win against Kansas City. Now, Washington’s defense ranked 17th in the NFL in points allowed, while Arizona’s defense was tied for seventh. There is a significant difference between the two. Still, confidence goes a long way in the NFL, and a team lacking confidence like the Sonoran lacks water finally has a reason to feel good about itself. Maybe they can build on that.
3. Injuries: They’re important every week, but injuries could play a pivotal role in whether the Packers’ season ends in the desert or survives another week. Among the players who may not be available Sunday: top cornerback Sam Shields, top backup cornerback Quinten Rollins, starting receiver Davante Adams and Bakhtiari. It is especially hard to win without a team’s top corner and starting left tackle, as the Packers have seen down the stretch. Shields hasn’t played since Dec. 13 vs. Dallas, and Bakhtiari hasn’t played since Dec. 20 at Oakland. The Packers made their playoff run last season with each player on their 53-man roster available, and they fell just five minutes short of the Super Bowl. A healthy roster could make up significant ground in their 30-point deficit.
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