Series: In a series that dates to a 3-3 tie in 1921 when the Cardinals were based in Chicago, the Packers lead 46-22-4. The teams also have split two playoff games. Green Bay has won the last three regular-season matchups.
Last time: At Lambeau Field on Nov. 4, 2012, the Packers won 31-17. Aaron Rodgers was just 14-of-30 but he threw four touchdown passes — two to Randall Cobb, one to James Jones and a 72-yard clincher to, of all people, Tom Crabtree.
Noteworthy: Bruce Arians is a tremendous coach. In his two seasons, the Cardinals went 10-6 in 2013 and 11-5 in 2014. Unbelievably, the Cardinals hadn’t had back-to-back 10-win seasons since 1974, 1975 and 1976.
The fate of this year’s team rests on quarterback Carson Palmer’s knee. The Cardinals looked like a legit contender until he torn an ACL in Week 10. He threw 11 touchdowns against three interceptions; the other quarterbacks had 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Over the past two seasons, the Cardinals are 16-6 when he starts and 5-5 when he’s out. The offensive line should be better with the addition of Mike Iupati, who was signed away from San Francisco to play left guard, and D.J. Humphries, the first-round pick at right tackle. Iupati and tackle Jared Veldheer should provide a tremendous left side. Third-round pick David Johnson should add some much-needed power to a running game that ranked 32nd in yards per carry.
The Cardinals made the playoffs without Palmer because the defense was so good, with its fifth-place finish in points allowed and its fewest points allowed since 1993. That unit suffered a big loss when defensive coordinator Todd Bowles took the Jets’ head coaching job. Another big loss was space-eating nose tackle Dan Williams chasing the money to Oakland. Nonetheless, new coordinator James Bettcher — who’s just 37 and never has been a coordinator — inherits plenty of talent. It starts up front with Calais Campbell, one of the best 3-4 ends in the NFL. Patrick Peterson is a fantastic cornerback and the safety play is tremendous and deep with Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon. The key will be inside linebacker, where the Cardinals are without suspended Daryl Washington. Filling his place will be Sean Weatherspoon, who is coming off a torn Achilles.
The Cardinals are excellent at home — 40-19 the past six seasons, including 7-1 last year.
11-5, second place, NFC West
Offensive rankings: 24th in points (19.4 per game). 24th in yards (319.8 per game). 14th in passing (237.0 per game). 31st in rushing (90.1 per game).
Defensive rankings: 5th in points (18.7 per game). 24th in yards (368.2 per game). 29th in passing (259.5 per game). 13th in rushing (108.7 per game).
2015 Comings and Goings
Hello: TE Jermaine Gresham, C A.Q. Shipley, G Mike Iupati, DT Corey Peters, DE Cory Redding, LB Sean Weatherspoon, LB LaMarr Woodley, CB Alfonzo Dennard.
Goodbye: QB Ryan Lindley, WR Ted Ginn, TE Rob Housler, C Lyle Sendlein, G Paul Fanaika, DT Tommy Kelly, DT Dan Williams, DT Darnell Dockett, ILB Larry Foote, OLB John Abraham, OLB Sam Acho, CB Antonio Cromartie.
Draft: The Cardinals bolstered their offensive line by grabbing D.J. Humphries with their first-round pick. He’ll challenge incumbent Bobbie Massey at right tackle. Second-round outside linebacker Markus Golden, the latest edge rusher from the Missouri pipeline, should upgrade the pass rush. In the third round, 225-pound Northern Iowa star David Johnson will provide a powerful complement to speedy Andre Ellington. The Cardinals, however, a lot of firepower on their defensive line with Williams and Kelly playing about 1,150 snaps and Dockett, who missed last season with a torn ACL, is a former Pro Bowler. Fourth-round pick Rodney Gunter, a star at Delaware State who the Packers saw as a late-round or undrafted talent, was the lone addition.
2015 Personnel in Focus
Pro Football Focus, that is. PFF has a color-coded rankings system for each team’s 24 “starters,” with the extra player to account for a key substitution package such as a third cornerback or third wide receiver. Green Bay has four blue/elite starters (Rodgers, Cobb, Nelson and Sitton), six dark green/high-quality starters (Lang, Lacy, Hayward, Peppers, Daniels and Matthews), four green/good starters (Linsley, Bulaga, Shields and Burnett), six yellow/average starters (Bakhtiari, Quarless, Kuhn, Hyde, Perry and Clinton-Dix) and four orange/below-average starters (Adams, Guion, Raji and Barrington). The Packers don’t have any starters rated poor and they don’t have any rookies projected to be starters.
The Cardinals have ...
Blue/elite (1): DE Calais Campbell.
Dark green/high quality (2): LT Jared Veldheer, CB Patrick Peterson.
Green/good (4): QB Carson Palmer, WR Larry Fitzgerald, WR Michael Floyd, LG Mike Iupati.
Yellow/average (9): C A.Q. Shipley, RT Bobbie Massie, RB Andre Ellington, WR John Brown, DE Frostee Rucker, NT Corey Peters, CB Alfonzo Dennard, CB Jerraud Powers, ILB Kevin Minter.
Orange/below average (5): OLB Alex Okafor, OLB Matt Shaughnessy, ILB Sean Weatherspoon, S Tony Jefferson, S Rashad Johnson.
Red/Poor (0): None.
Silver/Not enough information (3): RG Jonathan Cooper, TE Darren Fells, FB Robert Hughes.
Purple/Rookie (0): None.
QB Carson Palmer: “I'm not even thinking about my knee. I'm still rehabbing just to be on the safe side of things, but I don't need to be at rehab. I'm full-go in the weight room, full-go on the field, and until it's brought up, I haven't thought about what I'm not doing because I'm doing everything I was doing.”
Coach Bruce Arians, on hiring Jen Welter to assist with the inside linebackers: “Coaching is nothing more than teaching. One thing I have learned from players is: ‘How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don't care if you're the Green Hornet, man, I'll listen.’ I really believe she'll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her.”
ILB Sean Weatherspoon, on his talkative style: “I feel like we have one of the best jobs in the world, so when we’re out there, I feel like we should be having fun. Sometimes you’re tired, sometimes you don’t want to be out there. But you have to find it somewhere and I think that I can be a bright spot to help other guys get better in practice, and not just get through practice.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.