Stat Pack: Palmer deadly on deep pass
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Pro Football Focus

Pro Football Focus uses a complex system to analyze every NFL player involved in every snap in every game and assigns a grade based on how he performed on that play, with each position having its own set of grading guidelines. Plus/minus scores are given in 0.5 increments and a small normalization factor is applied to make 0.0 the average grade for a game or season. To learn more, visit

Three statistical observations about the Packers’ divisional-round playoff game Saturday at Arizona, with an assist from PFF’s Bryson Vesnaver:

1. Arizona’s Carson Palmer was the highest-graded quarterback (+59.1) this season, averaging an NFL-best 8.7 yards per attempt and throwing for 35 touchdowns (second only to Tom Brady’s 36). Palmer excelled on the deep ball, gaining 1,123 yards on passes that traveled 20 yards in the air (fourth best in the league). Palmer also clicked underneath with Larry Fitzgerald, who was PFF’s seventh-highest graded pass catcher (+26.5). As a slot receiver, Fitzgerald averaged 1.92 yards per route run, third-best in the league. He also earned an outstanding pass-blocking grade for a receiver (+6.1).

Packers' top priority: Get after Palmer

2. Green Bay pass rushers will need to put heat on Palmer like they did against Washington QB Kirk Cousins, when they produced seven sacks, five hits and 10 hurries. Cousins was pressured on 35 percent of his drop backs, led by Clay Matthews (+2.7 pass-rush grade) with two sacks, a hit and a hurry, Julius Peppers (+2.3) with two hits and two hurries, Nick Perry (+1.2) with three sacks and a hurry and Mike Daniels (+0.9) with five hurries. And the Cardinals could be vulnerable: Left tackle Jared Veldheer (+81.8) was the only Arizona offensive lineman to finish the season with an above-average pass-blocking grade.

3. The Packers’ ground game clicked against Washington with a boost from Randall Cobb  (+2.3 rushing grade), and Arizona’s defense had difficulties against the run this season (possibly from lack of practice in having to stop it, since opponents frequently fell behind against the Cardinals and had to abandon the run). Inside linebacker Kevin Minter had one of the overall lowest run-defense grades (+39.6) in the NFL and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (+54.8) also struggled.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) passes against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
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