NFC Wild Card Preview and Pick: Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals – Point Spread

Green Bay Packers (11-5 SU, 11-4-1 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (10-6
SU, 9-7 ATS), NFC Wild Card Game, 4:40 p.m. EST, Sunday, January 10, 2010, University of
Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., TV: FOX

by Badger of

Point Spread: Packers +2.5/Cardinals -2.5
Over/Under: 48

For the third time this season the Green Bay Packers will try and slip out of University of Phoenix Stadium with a win, but this time the Arizona Cardinals are expected to put up the fight of their lives when the two NFC teams clash in a Wild-Card round playoff game Sunday
in Glendale.

Green Bay has already won twice in the Cardinals home stadium this season, a 44-37 victory in a meaningless preseason game back in
August, and a 33-7 thrashing last Sunday in the final regular season
game of the year. Whether or not the Packers victory last weekend
proves to be meaningless is yet to be determined.

With nothing to play for except their good juju and to keep uncle
momentum on their sideline, the Packers and their head coach Mike
McCarthey came into last weeks game against the Cards with the pedal
to the floor. Once again the Pack ran out to a big 26-0 halftime lead
(held a 38-10 halftime lead of preseason game) and flipped it in
cruise control to win the seventh of their last eight games of the
season, with the only loss being a 1-point, last-second loss at
Pittsburgh in week 15.

Meanwhile, the Cards and head coach Ken Whisenhunt went with the exact opposite approach last Sunday. With most of the front-line
starters out by the third quarter, the Cards clearly came out with a
vanilla game plan (Kurt Warner only six passes) with nothing to play
for and just enough energy to not hurt their chance this week.

Unfortunately it may have hurt, because three important starters in
WR Anquan Boldin (ankle), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee) and
DE Calais Campbell (broken thumb) all left the game with injuries
that will put their effectiveness this week in doubt.

Oddsmakers in Las Vegas seem to agree, as they listed the Cardinals
as just 2.5-point favorites at home when the opening point spread was
released late on Sunday. That number is only going down, as a few
offshore sportsbooks have already lowered the number down to Cards
-2, and theres one offshore book already down to -1 (Legends).

The over/under total opened at 48 and has already dropped as well,
with a few 47.5s listed among the large majority of 47s on most of
the boards on the Web.

Offensively we all know what were going to get with the Packers.

For the second straight year the Packers offense features a
quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) that has thrown for over 4,000 yards, a
running back with over 1,000 yards rushing (Ryan Grant) and two
receivers with over 1,000 yards each (Donald Driver and Greg
Jennings). The Packers had major offensive line issues earlier this
season, but with the midseason addition of right tackle Mark Tauscher
and the return to health of left tackle Chad Clifton, the Packers
have only given up seven sacks the last seven games of the season.

The Cardinals offense may have peaked a few weeks early in their
30-17 victory over the Vikings on Sunday Night Football back on
December 6th. Since rolling up nearly 400 yards of total offense in
the win over the Vikings, the Cards have laid two huge duds (at San
Francisco and last week vs. Green Bay) and two good efforts against
questionable defenses (at Detroit and St. Louis), so nobody is
exactly sure which Arizona team will show up on Sunday.

If the Cards can flip the switch and turn it on, then theres nothing
to worry about for Cards fans. If they cant, and if Boldin isnt 100
percent with his bum ankle on Sunday, the Cards may end up paying for
putting their season in cruise control early.

But with all of the flash and dash both offenses bring to the table
on Sunday, theres no doubt the difference in the game will be on

The Cards must find a way to stop the Packers first team offense,
because they havent been able to do it all in the two previous
games, meaningless or not. In two games the Packers offense has over
750 yards of total offense and Rodgers has thrown for nearly 500
yards and four touchdowns, so lets just say that confidence is not
something the Packers will be lacking on Sunday.

And you can guarantee the Packers will run right at defensive end
Campbell and test his broken thumb (will be playing with a cast) and
throw right at Rodgers-Cromartie to test his knee and see if they
truly are healthy and ready to play at a playoff level come Sunday.

On the other side, the Packers defense has morphed into one of the
games top units this season under coordinator Dom Capers and his 3-4
scheme. The defense turned up its game down the stretch, allowing
just 15.6 points per game in the second half of the season, including
stellar games against playoff teams like Dallas (7 points), Baltimore
(14) and last week against the Cards (7).

The Packers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games against Arizona, so
that betting trend adds to the Packers confidence out in the desert
this Wild-Card weekend. The Packers are just 2-5 ATS in their last
seven playoff games, but with a handful of players still around since
the last time the Packers played in the playoffs that stat means less.

And lets not forget the Cardinals and their perfect 4-0 ATS run in
the playoff last season. In fact, the Cards are 6-1 ATS in their
last seven games in January, so they just might be able to flip the
switch like they plan too come Sunday.

The over is 4-1 in Arizonas last five playoff games, but just 2-5 in
the Cards last seven games at home in University of Phoenix Stadium
as the favorite.

Badgers Pick: Dont think for a second that last week means nothing. The Packers offense is due to stumble soon, but they are in
perfect sync right now and playing with so much confidence right now
that they should continue to roll up huge numbers. The Cards and
Warner will get back on track too. Take the over of 48.