Playoff breakdown: Packers-Cards
Arizona was spanked 33-7 by Green Bay last Sunday in a meaningless regular-season finale. The Cardinals learned before the opening kickoff they had no shot at the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, so coach
Cardinals defensive tackle
"I hope not," Whisenhunt said this week. "Obviously we're going to be faced with that a little bit just because of the way that we lost and Green Bay's success against us. ... Our team responds to that type of thing and, hopefully, it will be that way this week. Certainly we'll talk about it. As a matter of fact, I have some suspicions that some of our players have already had discussions about that."
This will be the first time in three meetings this season that the Cardinals will have game-planned for the Packers offense. They didn't do it in the preseason, and Green Bay's first-team offense lit them up for 31 points en route to a 38-10 halftime lead. They had a game plan last Sunday, but tucked it away after losing out on the No. 2 seed and first-round bye.
Privately, the Cardinals contend Sunday will be different. Defensive standouts Dockett,
The defensive turnaround has been particularly impressive. The Packers surrendered 30 points or more in four of their first eight games, but have done it only once since -- even with veteran stalwarts
Capers spent the offseason and training camp installing a new 3-4 scheme that had some veterans excited because it featured elaborate blitzes and more pressure. But when the season kicked off Capers' playcalling was strangely conservative. Cornerback
The unit had 13 sacks the first eight games and 24 the last eight. Its interceptions increased from 12 in Games 1-8 to 18 in Games 9-16.
Meanwhile the offense has come together thanks to some stability and consistency on the line. The Packers struggled with injuries and poor play early in the year, which contributed to QB
"You have to know going in that they're going to get their yards -- not so much in the running game, but in the passing game. They scheme the hell out of you. The one thing you can't do is let Kurt step up in the pocket. You've got to get him to move around. He's very similar to
"Kurt is a 10 personnel guy (one back, no tight ends); that's his baby. When things don't go well, he turns to that package. He goes to four receivers and tries to beat you that way. If they don't have Boldin (who sustained injuries to his left knee and ankle Sunday), it'll be big because he's a tough guy and does a lot of the underneath stuff. But Boldin never hurt us, from the standpoint that he's not a vertical threat to us; you can match up against him. If he's in motion, you know he's the primary receiver and will get the ball. But Fitz is the one. You've got to take him out of the game. He's the vertical guy, and you have to make sure you're on top of him as much as you can be. If they run eight explosive plays and he catches two of them, that's pretty good odds. That's 14 points. So you have to control him.
"But the key is Kurt. You gotta get him to move around. He likes to spread you out and see where the pressure is coming from, that way he can audible and change plays. You have to give him different looks. You can't play Tampa 2 against him; he'll kill you. You can't play zone; he'll pick you apart. You've got to grind them down and match up. Put your best guy on Fitz and match up.
"The thing that hurts Arizona is their OL is not that good, they're not talented.
To beat the surging Packers, an opponent will have to be at full strength. Arizona's Boldin and Campbell sustained injuries last week and could be hampered, therefore I'm going with Green Bay in a close one.