Packers-Cardinals: How we picked it
WESTON HODKIEWICZ (12-5)
CARDINALS 27, PACKERS 20
This game will be closer than last month, but the Packers face the same uphill battle against an incredibly deep and healthy team. Green Bay’s rush must get to Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer early and not allow him the time to pick apart the secondary again. A healthier offensive line won’t give up another nine sacks to the Cardinals, but the Packers’ receiving group may have the same issues trying to gain separation from Arizona’s defensive backs, especially with Davante Adams unlikely to play. Aaron Rodgers found his cape last week and the offense rediscovered its rhythm. Will it be enough to out-duel the NFL's top-ranked offense? Gut feeling is Palmer maintains his composure and picks up his first playoff win.
RYAN WOOD (11-6)
PACKERS 23, CARDINALS 21
How do the Packers erase a 30-point deficit in three weeks? That's what coach Mike McCarthy and his staff and players have had to figure out this week. It starts with health. If cornerback Sam Shields and left tackle David Bakhtiari are able to play, it'll be a big boost that was missing when the Packers traveled to Arizona last month. Then they have to eliminate mistakes. Nine sacks, four turnovers and two fumbles recovered for touchdowns gave the Packers no chance in their first meeting. Add in momentum, with the Packers coming off their best game in a long time and the Cardinals cold from the bye, and you have the chance for a completely different game. The Packers will find a way to keep the game close and win it in the end. A bold prediction? Sure, but this is the playoffs, and crazier things have happened.
PETE DOUGHERTY (13-4)
CARDINALS 31, PACKERS 21
The Packers have new life after their offense put up 35 points at Washington last week. They have a lot of playoff-tested players, and Aaron Rodgers might be getting hot at the 11th hour. So this figures to be way more competitive than the Cardinals' 38-8 win three weeks ago. Also, with David Bakhtiari likely back at left tackle and the offensive line being healthier overall, the chances for a jailbreak in these teams' second meeting look slim unless the Packers fall behind early again. But for my money, Arizona is the best team in the NFL. The Cardinals have the league's most explosive offense and are a complete team, so the guess here is they put the game away late.
STU COURTNEY (12-5)
PACKERS 28, CARDINALS 22
Common sense says the Packers can't beat the Cardinals. Not after losing to them by 30 less than three weeks ago. Not on the road against the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl. Not with a sputtering offense that remains suspect despite showing a spark against Washington. But sometimes in the NFL playoffs, uncommon upsets occur. Dom Capers' defense will need to produce its best performance yet this season, bringing relentless pass-rush pressure on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. And the Packers will need to create a few breaks — perhaps a pick-6, or a blocked punt or a Jeff Janis kickoff-return touchdown. In a season that seemed magical when the Packers started 6-0 but then went off the rails, the hunch here is that the Packers will get back on track.
ROBERT ZIZZO (10-7)
CARDINALS 27, PACKERS 23
This game will be closer than the betting line, but Green Bay doesn’t quite have enough this season to beat one of the best teams in the NFL on the road. Expect Aaron Rodgers to have a performance closer to last week’s at Washington than three weeks ago at Arizona. And David Bakhtiari (or JC Tretter, if necessary) will undoubtedly protect Rodgers better than Don Barclay did the last time these teams met. But the Cardinals are too explosive on offense, even for an improved Packers defense.