Packers vs. Cardinals preview: Predictions, 5 things to watch
TEAMS: Green Bay Packers (4-6-1) vs. Arizona Cardinals (2-9).
WHEN: Noon Sunday.
WHERE: Lambeau Field.
TV: Fox with Chris Myers (play-by-play), Daryl Johnston (analyst), Laura Okmin (sideline).
RADIO: AM-620 in Milwaukee, FM-101.1 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network.
SERIES: Packers lead, 46-23-4.
LINE: Packers by 14.
WEATHER: Light snow, high of 35.
COACHES: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (135-84-2) vs. Arizona's Steven Wilks (2-9-0).
LIVE GAME BLOG: Join Tom Silverstein for analysis and lively discussion
5 THINGS TO WATCH
NOT JOSHING: The last time the defense faced a rookie quarterback, it put the clamps on Buffalo’s Josh Allen in Week 4, limiting him to 16 of 33 passing for 151 yards with two interceptions in a 22-0 decision at Lambeau Field. Josh Rosen was picked three spots after Allen and has had to go through some intense growing pains. As a starter, he is 2-6, and for the season has completed just 55.5 percent of his passes for 1,521 yards and 10 touchdowns with 11 interceptions (62.5 passer rating). In his last six games, he has turned the ball over 12 times, including two fumbles. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine threw a good dose of pressure at Allen and might do the same against Rosen. “You try to take advantage of that when they’re young and hopefully giving them things that create difficulty,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “We’ve done a pretty good job of that, even with the best of quarterbacks that have been around for almost two decades. We’ve got to keep that going.”
SECOND FIDDLE: If you get bored Sunday, focus your eyes on receiver Davante Adams and cornerback Patrick Peterson. It’s a match-up of two of the best players in the league at their position. They should be going head-to-head the entire game. The Packers will be looking to exploit the Cardinals’ No. 2 cornerback and the backups behind him because that has been a sore spot for Arizona. After Arizona went with Jamar Taylor for three games and Bene Benwikere for eight, street free agent David Amerson got a shot last week. Former Packers cornerback Quinten Rollins was signed this week. None of the results have been very good. The Cardinals rank fourth in pass defense, but that’s based on yards. Teams are having so much success running on them, the passing numbers haven’t been great. They rank 10th in highest opponent passer rating (99.2) and tied for 24th (with among others, the Packers) in fewest interceptions (six).
KEEPING UP WITH JONES: If left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) can’t play, coach Mike McCarthy is going to have to give backup Jason Spriggs some help. Otherwise, Cardinals end Chandler Jones may be in Aaron Rodgers’ lap all day. Coming off a year in which he led the NFL in sacks with 17, Jones ranks tied for fourth with 11 sacks and tied for seventh in forced fumbles with three. He has at least one sack in eight of the Cardinals’ games this season and 4½ in his last three games. The Packers would probably love to rest Bakhtiari until the Chicago Bears game in two weeks, but with Jones coming to town he’ll have to play if able. “He's got great size and length, that kind of jumps out on tape,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “I think he's sneaky fast or sneaky slippery. He's a big man, a long man. He looks even like he's put on some weight. He's having a good year.”
SPECIAL SAUCE: Special teams coach Ron Zook is feeling some heat because his units keep committing critical errors. It’s not that they’re making tons of them, but they’re making big ones at the wrong time. This week, Zook will be scrambling to fill his units because the Packers probably aren’t going to have 46 players healthy enough to pick and choose who plays. Young and old will have to contribute. “That's why you have a plan and what you're doing, and your system, that's hopefully going to show up now, where you've got some guys that are beat up, that are tired, that are having to play,” Zook said. “But you know, you've got to put 11 guys out there.”
WORKING OVERTIME: Against the Minnesota Vikings last week, the Packers sacked quarterback Kirk Cousins only twice and neither was by an outside linebacker. Pettine is having to play Matthews, Kyler Fackrell and Reggie Gilbert a lot because Nick Perry (ankle, knee) was placed on injured reserve and there are no other options available on the 53. Matthews played 57 snaps, Fackrell 55 and Gilbert 30 against the Vikings and it’s possible the workload is too great. As the season goes on, he’s going to have to provide some relief because he can’t afford to wear any of them down. “If it does get to the point where we need some additional reps taken away from those guys, we can do it,” Pettine said. “We can also jump in with different groupings. We have some groupings that we only have one of those guys (outside linebacker) on the field. We haven’t had to do that much lately.”
If Mike Pettine can do to Josh Rosen what he did to Buffalo's Josh Allen, the offense should feel no pressure at all. The Cardinals rank 32nd in offense, so it should be a good game for the Packers' offense to work through some of its myriad issues. At 4-6-1, however, the Packers are not guaranteed of blowing out anybody. Packers 37, Cardinals 17
A 2-9 team from Arizona with a rookie quarterback coming north for an early December game in Wisconsin. Just what the Packers need to cure their ills for a week. Packers 31, Cardinals 20
There’s a reason the Packers needed only to survive their brutal November. Because starting with the first Sunday of December, their schedule really opens up. The Cardinals are 2-9 for a reason. They have statistically the worst offense in the NFL, and one of the worst defenses. It would be embarrassing for the Packers to not blow them out inside Lambeau Field. Packers 31, Cardinals 7
The Packers haven’t played well all season but they are unbeaten at home, and they are flat-out better than Arizona. It’s a good chance for the run game to get established and the defense to rebound, even if the secondary isn’t totally healthy. The Cardinals are simply overmatched. Packers 27, Cardinals 10
With possible snow in the forecast, this is a perfect opportunity to feed Aaron Jones and run the ball down the throat of one of the NFL's worst run defenses. Still, memories of the Packers' narrow escape in a supposed October gimme against the 49ers are a reminder that nothing comes easily for this team. Packers 30, Cardinals 16