Packers at Cardinals
The Packers were in Glendale on Dec. 27 and were destroyed 38-8, so they’re aware of the magnitude of this challenge. Rodgers was sacked eight times in that Week 16 Sunday night game, his team’s most lopsided loss of the season.
They went on to lose the NFC North the following week with a home setback against Minnesota, but rebounded with their strongest offensive performance in weeks last Sunday against Washington, overcoming an early 11-0 deficit in a 35-18 victory. Rodgers was aided by the re-emergence of inconsistent WR James Jones in addition to the revival of a running game that gashed the ‘Skins in helping create separation.
There were times where Randall Cobb was utilized as a traditional running back, joining Eddie Lacy and James Starks in a rotation that racked up 141 rushing yards. Green Bay went 4-for-5 in the red zone and came through on multiple short-yardage situation, so they’ll be hoping to replicate that success to keep the ball out of Palmer’s hands as much as possible.
Rodgers managed to throw for only 151 yards in the loss at Arizona and won’t have Davante Adams available. Adams, who broke out with four receptions on four targets and a touchdown last week, suffered a knee injury, left early and won’t be healthy enough to participate. Jared Abbredaris is expected to fill in, joining Jones, Cobb and tight end Richard Rodgers to form Green Bay’s receiving corps.
Up front, left tackle David Bakhtiari is expected to return from an ankle injury, but has been limited in practice and certainly won’t be at 100 percent. He didn’t play on Dec. 27, so Green Bay is hoping his return and the availability of Brian Bulaga, who left the loss with an ankle issue, will make a major difference in protecting Rodgers.
Arizona played its first game without All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu in its 30-point rout of the Packers, so it will be confident it can overcome his absence in this playoff game. Safety Rashad Johnson missed that game and will be available here, as will defensive end Josh Mauro, who is returning from a calf injury. The Cardinals defense got torched by Seattle in the regular-season finale but should be healthy and ready to go here. Meanwhile, the offense averaged 6.8 yards per play against Green Bay less than three weeks ago and is also at full strength. Palmer can spread it around to Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown, who combined for a pair of touchdown receptions the first time around. Rookie David Johnson will handle the ground game.
Oddsmakers have placed the total at 49.5 on what’s expected to be a clear night in Glendale. The under has prevailed in six of the last nine Packers games and is 5-1 in the last six involving Arizona. The Cardinals went 6-2 at home, but were just 3-5 ATS.