MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS OFFENSE VS. CARDINALS DEFENSE
TE Jermichael Finley vs S. Adrian Wilson: Finley is fast becoming one of the NFL's best tight ends, regardless of what the Pro Bowl voting says. He's on a four-game tear of 24 receptions for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson, on the other hand, is one of the game's established stars at safety. Last week, he joined a small group in the 20-20 club (interceptions and sacks), and the week before that, he dominated his matchup against San Francisco's Vernon Davis. At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he's not the size mismatch that the 6-foot-5 Finley has been feasting on lately.
WRs Greg Jennings/Donald Driver vs. CBs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie/Bryant McFadden: In an attempt to avoid the speed and athleticism of Rodgers-Cromartie (50 tackles and six picks), teams have opted to throw more passes McFadden's way. But the Steelers transplant has helped solidify the Cardinals' secondary and has quietly registered a career season (67 tackles). When the starters are on the field, this cornerback duo can stand the Jennings-Driver test. If the backups are given plenty of playing time, the Cardinals' secondary looks easy to exploit. But last week, rookie Greg Toler, the first player to be drafted from St. Paul's College, had his first career interception. He's considered a poor man's DRC because of his speed, ball-hawking skills and talent but also because of his late-round status and small-school name.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: CARDINALS OFFENSE VS. DEFENSE DEFENSE
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
QBs Kurt Warner/Matt Leinart vs. CB Charles Woodson: If Leinart gets a lot of playing time — and if Woodson plays — we could have a Heisman Trophy standoff on our hands. While Woodson has more than double the experience and more than double the success as Leinart, the novelty is there. Coach Ken Whisenhunt's play calling will be much more conservative with Leinart at the reins, but Whisenhunt might not be able to avoid Leinart throwing Woodson's way all game. Woodson will provide a great test for Leinart. The more interesting matchup is Woodson and Warner, though. Warner built his house on letting the play develop down field, as he holds on to the ball until the last second. With Woodson's coverage and a menacing Clay Matthews, who could very well beat the Cardinals' offensive line on nine out of 10 plays, Warner will feel the pressure and might not be able to find his rhythm. As a rhythm quarterback, this could be a problem.
THE PACKERS WILL WIN BECAUSE ...
... outside linebackers Clay Matthews III and Brad Jones get to Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner before Warner can pick apart the Packers' suspect secondary. Matthews and Jones have combined for nine sacks in the last four games.
THE PACKERS WILL LOSE BECAUSE ...
... the Cardinals' combination of wide receivers and cover men — like the Packers, the Cardinals have two Pro Bowlers in the secondary — is better than the Packers' combination. Plus, running back Tim Hightower is a better bet in the passing game than the Packers' linebackers.
THE CARDINALS WILL WIN BECAUSE ...
... their offensive line stands up against a formidable Packers defensive front. The Cardinals' big guys up front do not have enough depth to rest many players, so their line will get the normal wear-and-tear of a regular-season matchup. Whether it's Warner or Leinart, much of the Cardinals' success will be on the O-line's shoulders.
THE CARDINALS WILL LOSE BECAUSE ...
... their defense is inconsistent. The Cardinals boast three Pro Bowl-bound defenders (Wilson, Rodgers-Cromartie and Darnell Dockett), but as a whole, they often forget their playmaking ability. Karlos Dansby is due for a big-time game, and there is no opportunity like the present.
Bill Huber (12-3): No cop-outs here with which team decides to play and which team decides to rest its starters. In the likely undercard to next week's playoff game, Kurt Warner simply has too many weapons against a Packers defense that will keep its cards close to the vest. Cardinals 31, Packers 24.
Amberly Dressler: Just when you think you have the Cardinals figured out, they change their number. Sunday's game isn't a must-win for the Cardinals, but it's a statement game. Arizona should show enough of its cards to put the game away. But if the Cardinals lose, they haven't lost back-to-back games all season, which is a good note heading into the playoffs. Cardinals 31, Packers 27.