Green Bay Packers (10-4 SU, 9-5 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (12-2 SU, 8-6 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: December 27/4:25pm ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium
by Evergreen, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB +4/ARI -4
Over/Under Total: 49.5
As we wind down the NFL regular season, there are only a few key matchups remaining as most teams are pretty well locked into their playoff positions. Many of those games are in-division rivalries but one of the best contests of Week 16 comes in a cross-division battle as Green Bay heads to Arizona to take on the Cardinals. Both teams have already qualified for the post-season but there are still plenty of seed scenarios left to sort through and the result of this game will go a long way to determine them. This game also features two of the best quarterbacks in the game going at it under ideal conditions so this one should be a fun watch.
Even at 10-4, it is clear that Green Bay isnt quite the team that their record suggests and the Packers have been tabbed as 4-point underdogs by most online betting sites. There are two quality offenses in this one so it is not surprising to see a 49.5 point over/under total with plenty of 50 point totals out there. Arizona is looking to reverse a recent trend that has seen them go 0-4 against the spread in their last four home games and they carry an equal 0-4 ATS record against teams with winning records.
After starting the season 6-0, the Packers lost four of their next five games and looked rather poor in doing so. They enter this week on a three game win streak but still havent regained the form we are used to seeing. They needed a Hail Mary to beat Detroit a few weeks ago and they looked pretty listless in beating the Raiders after Oakland spotted them 14 points off turnovers in the first quarter. The offense has inexplicably been the root cause for many of the Packs woes and they enter the week just 21st in total yards and a truly shocking 26th in passing yards gained. The offensive line is beaten up, affecting both the run and pass and the wide receiving corps has underperformed for much of the year. Neither problem seems to be getting better and Mike McCarthy has taken back play-calling duties in what seems to be an effort to shake things up a bit.
It has been rather smooth sailing for the Cards on offense however and they are fresh off a 40-17 win at Philly on Sunday Night. Arizona enters the week as the top-ranked yards gained offense and is second in points scored, averaging 31.8 per game. Carson Palmer has played as good as anyone at the position this year and has the benefit of some truly gifted skill players. David Johnson has stepped in at running back for the injured Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. DJ has 11 touchdowns on the year, including four receiving scores and is averaging 4.9 yards per rush. He is running on pretty fresh legs as the Cardinals have been pacing him through the year but it is clearly his time to shine. Ellington may be back for this weekend, giving Arizona another versatile weapon. Palmer is listed on the injury report with a finger issue but the expectation is that he plays without problem.
Green Bay is hoping to get cornerback Sam Shields (concussion) back for this game as the Packers secondary will need a top-end effort to slow the Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd trio. Each of those Cardinal receivers has at least six touchdown receptions and while the Packers are giving up just 18.9 points per game, they have been giving up yards in ever-growing amounts. Amari Cooper burned the defense on a couple of occasions last week and Green Bay has been exposed on pass defense in every loss this season. Defending the crossing route has been a particularly difficult task for the Packers so look for plenty of passes to go underneath and over the middle on Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers simply isnt that top-notch producer that he has traditionally been but the Packers are still super dangerous with him at the helm. Even while struggling to find continuity with his receivers, Rodgers has been able to throw for 29 touchdown passes and the Cardinals will not feel comfortable if it comes down to A-Rod with the ball in his hand with a chance to win the game. Eddie Lacy is apparently back in the good graces of the coaching staff and James Starks provides a nice dual-threat option out of the backfield but neither runner has been able to average more than 4.1 yards per carry. That duo faces a Cardinal defense that is 4th against the run, allowing just 86 yards per game so dont be surprised to see Rodgers throwing it 40+ times in this one. The loss of Tyrann Mathieu will be a tough one to swallow for Arizona as the playmaking safety has become a formidable presence in that secondary.
There are plenty of big name players on Green Bays side of things but not many have played up to their potential this year. I expect a bit of a shootout as most are predicting but that likely favors the home team as the Cards have been the more efficient and productive offense through most of the year and the Green Bay passing game is a notch less powerful when on the road. The Packers are just 22nd against the run so Arizona can run to control the game or to simply set up the big pass play. If the Cardinals can keep Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers off Palmers back, he should have no problem finding any of his talented receivers and the Green Bay secondary has not proven it can shut down teams once they get rolling. There are too many injuries on the offensive line for Green Bay and too many times when the offense has looked flat in general. Four points is not too much for me as I am taking Arizona to win this one 31-24.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Arizona
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