Packers hope to salvage season starting with Cardinals
The Green Bay Packers aren't used to being far off the pace in the NFL playoff race when the calendar hits December, but that's where they are heading into Sunday's game at Lambeau Field against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Packers (4-6-1) have lost four straight road games during a rugged stretch and find themselves probably needing to win out just to have a chance to extend their season.
That's a lot to ask for a team that hasn't won two straight games all year.
"We've just been a one-half team this year," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We haven't put it together for four quarters. We've had a couple stretches where we had back-to-back good quarters in the first or second half and haven't done it in the other two.
"So it's execution, it's the little details that puts us in the red zone, that puts points on the board, that keeps the momentum going. (Instead), it's not converting third down the first drive in the third quarter against Minnesota.
"We get in these doldrums where we're not functioning at a high level and put ourselves in a tough position."
Rodgers hasn't been 100 percent healthy this year and injuries have taken their toll on the rest of the Green Bay roster.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari missed the end of Sunday's game against Minnesota after suffering a knee injury. His availability this week is unknown.
The Packers would like to have him in the lineup to contend with Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones, who led the NFL with 17 sacks last season and has 11 this season.
"The immediate is win today and the obvious is to win the game on Sunday," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. "We're going to do everything we possibly can in our preparation to go out and win that football game. It's going to be great to be at home, particularly coming off this stretch of games that we've been on here the last five or so weeks."
Rodgers hasn't been immune to criticism this year. He has thrown for 20 tochdowns with just one interception, but his 61.7 completion percentage ranks 28th in the NFL.
The weather could be in Green Bay's favor on Sunday. The forecast calls for a high temperature of 35 degrees and possibly several inches of snow. Rodgers is 16-1 in December home starts during his career and the Packers are 22-4 in December home games since 2006.
"The colder the better," Rodgers said. "It's a Western United States team playing a noon Central game. I hope it gets even colder, I hope it snows. That's playing downhill for us."
The Cardinals are counting on a rookie quarterback from a warm weather climate. Josh Rosen was selected in the first round of the 2018 draft out of UCLA and has experienced a rough first year in the NFL. He ranks 32nd of 34 qualifying quarterbacks with a 68.9 passer rating, 32nd in completion percentage (55.5), 34th in yards per attempt (6.28) and 31st in interception percentage (4.5).
Arizona (2-9) was routed 45-10 last week by the Los Angeles Chargers. If the Cardinals don't win another game, it will be their fewest wins since 1959 when the franchise was known as the Chicago Cardinals.
A positive development this week for the Cardinals was the return to practice Wednesday of safety Budda Baker, who had missed the previous two games.
"I was just excited to be back," Baker said. "It didn’t matter if we were 9-2 or 0-11, 0-12. It was another opportunity to play the game I love."