Green Bay Packers (10-6) vs Arizona Cardinals (13-3)
January 16th 8:15 PM ET/ 7:15 Central
After being consistently inconsistent throughout the Regular Season the Packers managed to pullout a Wildcard victory against the Washington Redskins this past weekend on the road 35-18.
The Packers were able to run the football thanks to Running Backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Combined both players rushed for 116yds and 2TDs. Through the air Aaron Rodgers was able pass for 206yds and toss a couple of touchdowns passes. Offensively the Packers were in sync and found the rhythm they had been missing since the earlier portion of this season.
On the defensive side of the ball Green Bay sacked the quarterback 6 times, stifled the Redskins rushing attack (allowed only 84yds) and forced the Redskins to turn the ball over.
The four biggest takeaways from that game is:
Green Bay has found their niche offensively.
Aaron Rodgers finally had a game where he was protected.
Both Green Bay RBs were effective.
The defense was able to dictate what the opposing offense did.
Things are coming together at the right time for the Packers.
Underdogs for a majority of this season the Arizona Cardinals have been a dominant force both offensively and defensively.
The Cardinals average 30.6ppg (good for 2nd) and tally the most yards per game (408.3) offensively. On the defensive side Arizona has forced 33 turnovers (19int 14fumbles), accumulated 36 sacks and have scored 6 defensive TDs.
With guys like Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown on the offensive end and playmakers like Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Dwight Freeney, Calais Campbell and others on the defensive end the Cardinals have the pieces to be successful.
Prediction: wins 43-35
The last time these two teams met the Cardinals won 38-8. They were able to sack Aaron Rodgers 8 times and forced him to turn the ball over. With Arizona sporting an elite secondary and Aaron Rodgers having to deal with an inconsistent receiving group ( James Jones, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers) I don’t see the Packers winning.
Fun Fact: Carson Palmer is 0-1 (0-2) in Playoff games.
This is without a doubt the strongest division in football having had two different teams reaching the Super Bowl in the past 2 years and another team with an 11-5 record barely missing the Playoffs this past year.
St. Louis Rams: Well some people had some really high hopes for this year’s Rams team. Then Sam Bradford their starting QB went down with an ACL tear (Article on them here https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/time-to-move-on/) basically taking them out of the conversation completely as their offense wasn’t that prolific before.
They will have depend on their breakout rookie last year in Zac Stacy. Zac Stacy is a very nice player but I do not ever see him being the sole reason the team will win any games. On the defensive side of the ball they have a lethal front 7, but I have questions about their secondary. No team should look to run on them, but I see passing on them to be a very solid strategy as their only decent guy being Cortland Finnegan. I see them giving some teams problems but the Eagles, Cowboys, Broncos and Chargers will all have a field day on this defense. ( All of the teams I just listed are teams on the Rams schedule this year.) I see the Rams finishing with a pedestrian 6-10 record.
This team was outstanding last year and just barely missed the playoffs. They lost Dockett but I don’t think this defense will miss a beat. In fact I think this team will be a tad better all around than last year. On offense they have veteran Larry Fitzgerald and an underrated WR on the other side in Michael Floyd. They have Carson Palmer who quietly threw over 4,000yds last year and Andre Ellington who I personally believe will be a great player for them as he had the most yards per carry of any player last year. He is the starter from here on out and I think things are looking up for this young RB.
On the defensive side they have a playmaker safety in Tyrone Mathieu and a CB who is the most physically gifted corner in the game right now. Their coach, Bruce Arians is pretty solid as well. I believe this team will not only repeat their 11-5 record this year but will also grab a playoff spot in one of the wildcard spots.
San Francisco 49ers: This was a hard choice for me. Before the preseason I told everyone that if I had to pick who would be in the Super Bowl this upcoming year it would be the Patriots vs the 49ers. I can’t stand by that prediction because the key to that happening was for the 49ers to win that division for home-field advantage over the Seahawks. With Bowman being out for a majority of the season and Aldon Smith suspended for 9 games there is no possible way this team can win the division. Kaepernick has more weapons than just about any other QB besides Peyton Manning. Stevie Johnson a great pick-up for the Niners was a #1 option for the Bills. The combination of Stevie, Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis would be more than enough for most QBs. Problem is Kaepernick still has trouble making plays from the pocket. Frank Gore keeps getting older and older, but somehow he keeps managing to be a 1,000yd rusher each year. I just don’t trust Kaepernick to steal this division. By the end of this year the 49ers will barely scratch by the cardinals in the division due to their division record and finish the season 11-5. ( I nearly had this team 3rd in the division.)
The reigning defending champions. The same team who destroyed the greatest statistical offense in NFL history. They are all young and hungry to come back again. Russell Wilson has been the best QB this preseason scoring on a ridiculous 11-13 drives. Again I don’t like to put much stock in the preseason but I personally watched some of their preseason games. The eye test is telling me this guy is the real deal. Making perfectly timed throws, reading defenses and countering them with efficient play after efficient play.
They lost their best WR Golden Tate to the Lions, but from what I’ve seen they will be perfectly okay without him. Marshawn Lynch can still be “beastmode” when they need him to as he led the league last year in Rushing TDs. Oh yeah, they got that defense which dominated the greatest offense ever recorded in history.
The Legion of Boom is still intact as they have the two best safeties in the league, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. They have Richard Sherman who has won the Madden cover vote this year and if you happen to follow him on twitter you will more than likely see him telling every other corner that he is better than all of them. I could go on and on about the weapons they have on defense but that would turn into an article all on it’s own. The Seahawks will finish this season 13-3, earning the division title and a first round bye week in the Playoffs. Do not be surprised if we see them again this year in the Super Bowl.