Week 9: Arizona Cardinals At Green Bay Packers
- QuarterbacksThe Cardinals are in a very difficult position as they are trying to stay competitive even though their running game is not working and their quarterback has limited mobility. John Skelton has displayed plenty of guts since stepping in for injured Kevin Kolb, but he can’t get away the pass rush and he plays in front of a line that can’t protect him. That’s a bad combination.Aaron Rodgers didn’t have his best game in the Packers’ sluggish 24-15 victory over Jacksonville in Week Eight, but he did enough to secure the win. Rodgers threw two more touchdown passes and now has an 11-0 TD-interception ratio in his last three games. It looks like the Packers are back in form – they have won three straight – and Rodgers is capable of tearing up any defense.
- OffenseThe Cardinals were unable to give Skelton any help by establishing the run against the physical 49ers defense. The Packers can’t play defense at that level, so look for Ken Whisenhunt to at least try to get LaRod Stephens-Howling going. Larry Fitzgerald is growing increasingly frustrated with Arizona’s stalled offense. Wide receiver Andre Roberts and tight end Jeff King can provide some help, but not enough.The Packers have plenty of weapons, even though No. 1 wide receiver Greg Jennings is still out of the picture. Jordy Nelson is a dependable receiver who can catch third-down passes and stretch the field. James Jones caught seven passes against the Jaguars. The Packers seem to be unable to sustain anything on the ground once again.
- DefenseThe Cardinals need to get explosive play from the defense if they are going to compete. They were unable to do anything to stop Alex Smith in Week Eight, as he completed 18-of-19 passes. That performance should serve as an engraved invitation for Rodgers. Linebacker Daryl Washington (six tackles, two sacks vs. San Francisco) and defensive end Calais Campbell (six tackles, one sack) key Arizona’s defensive effortThe Packers can get after opposing quarterbacks. That’s the key to the way Mike McCarthy’s team plays defense. They are going to try to bring the heat and force mistakes. Nobody does that better than Clay Matthews, who has nine sacks this season. He didn’t get any against the Jaguars, but he should smell blood in the water as he hunts down Skelton.
- Special TeamsThe Cardinals know that placekicker Jay Feely has a big leg. He has already hit a 61-yard field goal attempt this season. Dave Zastudil has a solid leg and averaged 47.3 yards per punt against the 49ers. Patrick Peterson is one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL.The Packers have not been getting top-level production from placekicker Mason Crosby. He has made just 9-of-13 field goal attempts thus far. Punter Tim Masthay averaged 45.0 yards on five punts against the Jaguars. He also can be used as a passer on fake punts. While he failed against the Jaguars, he throws a tight spiral and an accurate pass.
The Packers have gotten it back together and should be a formidable team the rest of the season. While they are explosive behind Rodgers, they still don’t have a running game and that hurts when they are trying to run out the clock. Going on the road to slow the Packers is a tough assignment for Whisenhunt.