With Greg Jennings recovering from surgery and Jordy Nelson and John Kuhn continuing to sit out practice, the Green Bay Packers will face the same offensive challenges against the Arizona Cardinals as they faced last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In fact, things will be tougher for the offense. Arizona is ranked fourth in the NFL in opponents’ passing yards, with a secondary that is much more talented than the Jacksonville one that gave the Packers a worrisome amount of trouble last week. Arizona is not as good in defending the run, but I don’t expect the Packers’ running game to magically appear out of nowhere Sunday (unless they listen to my advice – put Randall Cobb in the backfield!), and the Packers have consistently failed to take advantage in the run game against weaker defenses.
The Packers have a lot of injuries on defense, too. B.J. Raji returned last week, which is great, but Charles Woodson (broken collarbone) is out, and Sam Shields (shin), Nick Perry (knee), and Jerel Worthy (concussion) all have not practiced this week. Mike Neal (ankle) returned to practice Thursday, but on a limited basis. Down Woodson and Shields, the Green Bay secondary will have to cover one of the best receivers in the league, Larry Fitzgerald, and a solid supporting cast of Michael Floyd, Early Doucet, and Andre Roberts.
I’m more concerned about the defensive line than the secondary, however, given the injuries. Raji was supposed to be on a snap count last week, but was forced to exceed that count because, in his words, “Everybody got hurt, so I really didn’t have a choice.” If none of the above-mentioned players is available on Sunday, that could leave the Packers with just four defensive linemen active: Raji, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson, and Mike Daniels. Eek.
The good news is that Arizona’s offensive line is atrocious. The Packers are second worst in the league in sacks allowed with 29 – a number that makes any fan cringe – but the Cardinals blow everybody out of the water with 38 sacks through eight weeks. They are really bad. Clay Matthews and company should look to pad their stats this week.
Yet, even if the Packers can barely field a starting lineup on Sunday, you still have to have them winning the game simply because they have Aaron Rodgers and Arizona has John Skelton. Rodgers has thrown 11 touchdowns, zero interceptions, with a 120.6 passer rating through the last three weeks. Skelton has – oh, boy – one touchdown, three interceptions, one fumble, and a passer rating of 54.3. Against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6, he had a 6.3 passer rating! His projected stats for the season are eight interceptions, four fumbles, and two touchdowns. Also, he’s kind of goofy looking.
Even with everything in the world that can be quantified going against Arizona, the Packers still have to be mentally prepared for this game. They did not seem to be focused on last week’s game and coach Mike McCarthy admitted that maybe the team got caught peeking ahead to next week’s bye. They need to get the offense going in the first quarter – no more of this three-and-out stuff to start the game. This game is also the best opportunity of the season for the Packers defense to help out the offense by scoring defensive touchdowns. Going into the bye week, the Packers don’t want to merely escape with a win as they did last week, but generate some positive momentum by dominating the Cardinals as they should.