Saturday, January 9, 2010

Packers v. Cardinals 2009 NFL Wild Card Playoff Preview

The Green Bay Packers travel to Arizona for the 3rd time this season to take on the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the NFL playoffs. That is a quite a feat considering the play in different divisions. The Packers defeated the Cardinals in the 3rd week of the preseason and the last week of the regular season. Both of the those victories are meaningless at this point though.

Last week, in essentially a meaningless game by kickoff, the Packers and Cardinals handled the game very differently. The Packers played their starters well into the second half of the game despite leading by multiple touchdowns. The Cardinals sat most of their starters but somehow still amassed a long injury list.

Here is a quick look at the Top 10 Arizona Cardinals:

#10 - Ben "Never refer to me as Kapinos" Graham (P): was picked off the scrap heap by the Cardinals in 2008 and this season lead the NFL in punts downed inside the 20 yard line. Don't get me wrong, that is a good thing but I have always questioned that statistic. For one thing, it could be a slight on your offense since it means they can move the ball a little bit but not far enough to actually attempt a field goal or score a touchdown. Again the Packers are at a disadvantage on special teams despite the Cardinals having a hurt place kicker and an overlooked punter.

#9 - Reggie "Had to include one offensive linemen" Wells (LG): the Cardinals sorely miss left tackle Mike Gandy. After placing Gandy on injured reserve, the Cardinals were forced to insert underachiever Jeremy Bridges at left tackle and he has struggled mightily. Some of Bridges deficiencies have been masked by Wells picking up the slack. Wells will be called on to help block Pro Bowl rookie outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

#8 - Chris "The Fumbler" Wells (RB): I thought I was the most biased fan in the country but a play that involved Wells confirmed at least one person is more of a homer than me. In Wells' freshman season at Ohio State he broke off a long run against the Michigan Wolverines. Even though he wasn't the starter for Ohio State at that point my cousin Steve claimed that Wells would win multiple Heisman (you read that correctly) trophies before he left Ohio State. Wells was a good running back in college, unfortunately he never even sniffed a Heisman. Sorry about that tangent, onto his pro career. Wells was the back-up for most of his rookie season this year but emerged as a starter towards the end of the regular season. Wells has embraced that role amassing 793 rushing yards on 176 attempts, 7 touchdowns and 4 fumbles.

#7 - Calais "Freak of nature" Campbell (DE): at 6'8" and 290 pounds is an absolute physical freak. Campbell suffered a broken left thumb last week against the Packers. Oddly enough, Packers left tackle Chad Clifton claims that is one of the worst injuries to have. Last season Clifton played through knee, shoulder and thumb injuries. When asked after the season which injury was the hardest to play with he said his thumbs.

#6 - Dominique "I give up big plays" Rodgers-Cromartie (CB): has a bruised left kneecap that he suffered at the expense of Jermichael Finely's cleats last week but will most likely play this weekend. DRC is Arizona's best cornerback but he is susceptible to giving up big plays (remember Santonio Holmes' touchdown catch in the Super Bowl last season) and does not like to play physical at the line of scrimmage. If DRC allows Jennings and Driver to get separation it is going to be a long day for Arizona because Green Bay's wide receivers are lethal once they get the ball in their hands.

#5 - Anquan "Yes, I have a reconstructed face" Boldin (WR): has a sprained left ankle and knee. According to various reports Boldin is the player most likely to miss the game against the Packers. Boldin has tried everything including acupuncture to try to relieve the swelling in his knee. That said, losing Boldin this weekend might not be the worst thing. The Cardinals are 6-1 in games that Boldin is innactive. Clearly Boldin is a talented player so it might be one of those silly statistical anomalies but the Cardinals are the only team in the NFL with a deeper wider receiving core than the Packers.

#4 - Adrian "The pacemaker" Wilson (S): is the undisputed leader of the Arizona Cardinal defense. At 6'2" and 230 pounds, Wilson is one of the bigger safties the Packers faced all season. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals try to put Wilson on Packers tight end Jermichael Finley in an attempt to neutralize the mismatch that Finley creates. When teams put linebackers on Finley they usually lack the speed to keep up with him. When teams put cornerbacks on Finley they usually lack height (as evidenced by Finley's jump ball touchdown catch last weekend). In the second best match-up of the weekend, behind Woodson/Fitsgerald, the Finley/Wilson battle will be fun to watch.

#3 - Kurt "I have the same haircut as my wife did circa 1999" Warner (QB): old man time still hasn't caught up with Brett Favre or Kurt Warner. We have heard Warner's back story a million times, it is very nice but Packers fans hope he doesn't add to it in a positive way this Sunday. Warner lacks mobility but he makes up for it with pocket presence. Warner has an uncanny ability to read pre-snap blitzes and get the ball out within a second or two. The Packers will need to bring overloaded pressure and disguise it well if they want to disrupt Warner's rhythm.

#2 - Darnell "More effective then the Williams Brothers" Dockett (DE): in the Cardinals march to the Super Bowl last season Larry Fitzgerald had one of the most statistically impressive post seasons in NFL history but most scouts claim it was the pressure created by Dockett that propelled the Cardinals to the Super Bowl. Dockett is tied for the team lead in sacks (7) and tackles for a loss (10) and was one of four Cardinals selected to the pro bowl this season. It might be simplistic but if the Packers neutralize Dockett I think they win the game. If not, watch out Mr. Rodgers...

#1 - Larry "Try to cover me...Chuck" Fitzgerald: last week the Cardinals sat most of their starters but for statistical purposes Fitzgerald stayed in the game till the bitter end. Luckily Fitzgerald emerged without injury. This season he leads the team in every major receiving statistic with 97 receptions, 1092 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. At 6'3" and 217 pounds, Fitzgerald might be the most gifted wide receiver in the NFL. The Packers will put Charles Woodson on Fitzgerald all day, which will pit the best cornerback in the league against the best wide receiver in the league.

Go Pack Go!!!!!!!

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