PACKERS OFFENSE VS. CARDINALS DEFENSE
WRs Greg Jennings/Donald Driver vs. CBs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie/Bryant McFadden: In what is expected to be an all-out aerial assault, this matchup will have a big impact on the final score. Rodgers-Cromartie enters Sunday's rematch with a bruised left knee acquired in last week's regular-season finale. He returned to practice late in the week. While he might not be 100 percent, his burners are fast enough to fill in the gap. But the Packers' receivers, which ranked fourth in the NFL in yards after catch, could expose his mediocre tackling skills. The Cardinals can ill-afford either corner having a bad showing.
RB Ryan Grant vs. DT Darnell Dockett: The Cardinals' Pro Bowl defensive lineman will be on Grant duties. He can get after the quarterback arguably better than any other player at his position, but the Cardinals can't allow Grant to slip through the cracks. Dockett is the Cardinals' best chance at stuffing the run, but he'll have to beat right tackle Mark Tauscher first.
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QB Aaron Rodgers vs. coordinator Billy Davis: Davis played it vanilla last week, and Rodgers spent his three-plus quarters playing catch with his receivers. Most likely, Davis won't go to the other extreme and blitz Rodgers relentlessly — especially considering how Rodgers has handled the blitz this year — but the game plan obviously will be more aggressive. The Cardinals' defense ranks just 23rd against the pass but they can pressure the quarterback (sixth with 43 sacks) and they've picked off a seventh-ranked 21 passes.
CARDINALS OFFENSE VS. PACKERS DEFENSE
QB Kurt Warner vs. CB Charles Woodson: We watched the complete dismantle that Woodson caused Matt Leinart last week. Warner assumes his starting position for a reason, but he is definitely pick-able with 14 in his 15 games. He's not immune to poor decisions, which can't be made against Woodson. The Cardinals' playoff destiny rides on Warner's ability to connect with his receivers. Woodson will be a big-time threat for the Cardinals.
TEs Anthony Becht/Ben Patrick vs. Green Bay safeties:The Cardinals' tight ends, with only 19 receptions between their top two this year, have caused more problems than solutions in the past couple years. That needs to change on Sunday. Patrick is expected to return after missing a pair of games with a concussion. When he is active, Patrick is a viable option in the end zone and can block well, too. Becht won't be involved in the passing game, but is a better blocker than Patrick. It won't be easy against Nick Collins, whose 13 interceptions are tops among safeties the last two years, and hard-hitting Atari Bigby, who has three picks and some big licks in last two games.
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LT Jeremy Bridges vs. ROLB Clay Matthews III: With Mike Gandy on injured reserve, the Cardinals have turned to the journeyman Bridges at the all-important left tackle position. Matthews has 10 sacks — a franchise rookie record and one behind Washington's Brian Orakpo for the NFL rookie lead. He's been dominant over the last six games — even last week, when he didn't beat Bridges for a sack but got three hits on the quarterback and drew a safety call when he was held in the end zone.
THE CARDINALS WILL WIN BECAUSE…
… their starting quarterback is ready to play playoff football. Warner knows how to win in the postseason and is on the retirement bubble. He's a winning quarterback with one of the best receiving units in the league. Also, the Cardinals were able to sit back and watch the Packers' show last week. It's Arizona's turn.
THE CARDINALS WILL LOSE BECAUSE…
… their offensive line doesn't step up to Matthews' pressure. If the Cardinals can't shut down Matthews, they don't stand a chance. The Cardinals' left side of the line is weak — Reggie Wells and Jeremy Bridges were burned by Matthews last week in allowing oodles of pressure against their quarterback. When Warner was in the game, he looked frustrated. But there is hope for the Cardinals. This same Wells-Bridges duo kept Jared Allen off the box score in Week 13. The offense's go-deep style of play is what catapulted the Cardinals to the Super Bowl last year and will be what their playoff hopes rely on. And that begins and ends with the offensive line.
THE PACKERS WILL WIN BECAUSE…
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THE PACKERS WILL LOSE BECAUSE…
... the Cardinals make the right adjustments and give Warner ample protection. In the end, this game will come down to which team can protect its quarterback. Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt expressed a lot confidence in his group on Friday — real confidence, not just phony bluster — but can Jarrett Bush and Brandon Underwood hold up if Warner isn't pressured? The guess is no.
Amberly Dressler: The Cardinals haven't lost back-to-back games all season. That idea should stick in the playoffs thanks to their ability to bounce back. It's just plain difficult to imagine that Warner won't pull out a victory in this game. Cardinals 31, Packers 24.
Bill Huber: I'm going with the season-long trend in turnovers and thinking it will stick. The Packers finished a league-best plus-24, leading the NFL in most takeaways and fewest giveaways. The Cardinals finished minus-7, and only Detroit turned it over more often. That's a differential of 31 — or almost two per game. If the trend continues, the Packers advance. Packers 34, Cardinals 31.