Last MInute News, Rumors etc.:
(Updated regularly if or when needed) - Tyrann Mathieu (ACL) was ruled "out for rest of the season." Hard if not impossible to replace, but slack will be taken up by others in the Cardinal secondary (like Powers, Swearinger, Bethel and R Johnson).
Setting the Stage:
Cards trounced Philadelphia 40 - 17 Sunday night, and doing so, won a record-setting 12th game and clinched the 2015 NFC West Championship; but in doing so, they lost one of their top defensive players and arguably their most inspirational leader for the rest of the season when Tyrann Mathieu tore his ACL. The physical loss of The Honey Badger - the versatile "Swiss Army Knife" of the Cardinal secondary - may be eclipsed by the emotional toll created by his absence on the field. Keeping the Cardinals upbeat and focused will be the main challenge for the various leaders of the Cardinal Family.
Packers beat the Raidiz 30 - 20 last Sunday, solidifying ts position atop the NFC Central division (but not yet clinching the division title). Both the Pack and the Cards are competing for a Bye position in the playoffs.
Opponent's Last Game
Green Bay opened up a 14 - 0 first quarter lead only to allow 13 unanswered second quarter points which narrowed their lead to 14 -13 at halftime. Oakland actually seized the lead (on completions to Cooper) in the 3Q, But the Pack (on a couple of passes to J Jones) regained the lead and - most notably surfing the crest of a 19-play 8:11 scoring drive that bridged the 3rd & 4th quarters - took control of the balance of the game.
GB received and returned the KO to their own 16. They went 3 & out. Oakland returned the punt to their own 28 and managed to move to just short of midfield before they were forced to punt. Punt went out of bounds at the GB 27. Paxck went 3 & out again. Punt (net holding call on Oakland) was downed at the Raider 16. On the third play of the Oakland possession, Hyde intercepted Carr's pass over the deep middle and returned it (net an unsportsmanlike penalty on GB) to the Raider 17. A couple of short passes by Rodgers set up a 5-yard TD run up the middle by Kuhn. Green Bay 7 - Oakland 0.
Oakland returned the KO to its own 34. On the first play from scrimmage, Carr's pass (short-right) for Roberts was poicked off by Randall and returned 43 yards for a GB touchdown. Green Bay 14 - Oakland 0.
TB on the KO. Raiders moved to the GB 5 in 8 plays to end the quarter.
First Quarter Score: Green Bay 14 - Oakland 0.
Drive stalled at the five and Oakland settled for a 23 yard Janikowski FG.Green Bay 14 - Oakland 3.
GB returned the KO to its own 22. An illegal use of hands flag on GB set up a punt from their own 21. Punt was downed at the Oakland 22. A 22-yard run up the middle by Murray and a 23-yard completion to Crabtree helped set up a 30-yard Janikowski FG. Green Bay 14 - Oakland 6.
GB returned the KO to their own 23. Rodgers was able to pick up one 1st down but the possession stalled at the GB 45. Punt (net GB holding penalty) gave Oakland the ball at their own 30. Green Bay held them to 3 & out. Punt was downed at the GB 2 with 4:58 till halftime. The Packers were able to move to their own 32 in 9 plays but Starks - after gaining 11-yards around RE - fumbled. (Play challenged. Fumble-call upheld). Raiders took over on tyheir own 21-yard line with 1:22 on the clock. Carr hit Reece for +29, Rivera for +14, scrambled for +17 and fired a +19 scoring strike deep right to Cooper with 0:25 left on the clock. (Ba-bam!) Green Bay 14 - Oakland 13.
GB returned the KO to their own 35 and ran off 2 plays to end the quarter..
First Half Score: Green Bay 14 - Oakland 13.
Oakland received and returned the KO to its own 20. GB held Raiders to 3 & out. Punt was returned by GB to midfield. Rodgers relied on heavy doses of Lacy and a 28 yard defensive PI penalty to move to the Raider 6 where they settled for a 24-yard Crosby FG. Green Bay 17- Oakland 13.
Oakland returned the KO to their own 19. A 41-yard pass to Cooper helped set up a 26-yard (deep right) scoring pass to Cooper to give the Raiders the lead for the first time. Oakland 20 - Green Bay 17.
GB (Janis) returned the KO 47 yards to the GB 47. Rodgers completed three straight passes. He hit Abbreris for +15, J Jones for +8 and then threw a 30-yard scoring strike (deep right) to J Jones to regain the lead. Green Bay 24- Oakland 20.
TB on the KO. Oakland was able to pick up one first down but had to punt from its 43. Punt was downed at the Packer 5. Rodgers pecked his way to the GB 46 in 7 plays to end the quarter.
Third Quarter Score: Green Bay 24- Oakland 20.
Green Bay finished off what turned out to be a 19-play (8:11) drive at the Oakland 3 with a 21-yard Crosby FG. Green Bay 27- Oakland 20
Oakland returned the KO to its own 16. A minus-14 yard sack of Carr forced them to punt from their own 14. Punt rolled to about midfield and was returned 10 yards, but Oakland was penalized for "an illegal downfield kick" and GB wound up with the ball on the Oakland 36 with 6:54 to play.
GB moved to the Oakland 5 but couldn't jjam it in. They settled for a 33-yard Crosby FG. Green Bay 30- Oakland 20
4:25 left. TB on the KO. Pack held Oakland to 4 & out. GB took over on downs at the Raider 16. Two plays later, Rodgers's pass for Janis was intercepted. Raiders took over on their 1-yard line with 2:36 left. They gave up the ball on downs at the Oakland 36. GB moved to the Oakland 31 but - on 4th * 6 - their 49-yard FG attempt was blocked. Oakland took over on their own 39 with 1:02 to play. Not much happened in 4 plays. Game ended with a knee. /
Final Score:Green Bay 30- Oakland 20
Meaningful Game Stats
Passing - Rodgers was 22 for 39 204 yards, one TD and one interception.
Receiving - J Jones led with 6 catches for 82 yards and a TD. Cobb followed with 5 catches for 40 yards. Adams caught 5 for 32 yards and Abbrederis caught 4 for 32.
Rushing - GB gained 109 net rushing yards. Run/Pass Ratio: 28/39. Stark was the leading GB ballcarrier with 51-yards on 9 carries. Lacy had the most carries (11) for 23 yards. Cobb ran 4 times for 18 yards.
Pass Defense -GB gave up 252 net passing yards.
Run Defense - GB surrendered 120 net rushing yards.
Turnovers - +0. GB gave up 1 pick and 1 recovered fumble. Oakland threw 2 picks/gave up no fumbles.
Tackles - Burnett led with 8; Ryan and Randall had 7 apiece.
Interceptions - Randall had a Pick-6. Hyde had the other iGB interception.
Sacks - Three. Peppers led with 2.5. Neal had 0.5. (GB blockers gave up 2 sacks).
Third Down Efficiency - 4 for 13 (30%). Oakland had 5 for 17 (29%)
Net Punting Average - 48.5 (Oakland had 38.6).
Penalties - 6 for 75 yards (Raiders were flagged 10 times for 95 yards).
Red Zone Efficiency: GB 1 for 5 (20%). Oakland 1 for 3 (33%).
Time of Possession: GB: 29:29. Raiders 30:31.
Meaningful Green Bay Season Stats (prior to Sunday's gamess)
First Downs: Green Bay 282 - Opponents 267
First Downs (Rushing): Green Bay 90 - Opponents 85
First Downs (Passing): Green Bay 153 - Opponents 165
Receiving: Cobb leads with 70 grabs for 77 yards (11.1 ypc) and 6 TD's. R Rodgers is next with 50 catches for 449 yards (9.0 ypc) and 7 TD's. our.followed by Adams (43 catches), J Jones (41) and Starks (40). Jones is the home run hitter of this group - averaging 18.1 ypc.
Passing Yards: Rodgers is credited with 304 completions from 500 passing attempts for a 60.8% completion average. He has 29 TD's while throwing only 6 interceptions and has been sacked 33 times and sacked (or lost yardage) for 227 yards. He has an 95.2 QB rating.
Rushing: Lacy leads with 664 yards in 162 attempts (4.1 ypc). Starks follows with 566 yards on 137 carries (4.1 ypc). Rodgers has gained 313 yards on 52 carries (he's run the ball roughly 4 times a game).
Sacks: Green Bay is credited with 38 sacks whille giving up 33. They spread it around pretty good - Peppers leads the team with 9.5 Matthews is next with 5.5 followed by Daniels (4.0). Perry is next with 3.5. Elliott, Neal and D Jones have 3.0 apiece.
Tackles - Clinton-Dix leads in tackles with 93 followed by Palmer with 67 and C Matthews with 63.
Field Goals: 22 for 26 (Opponents are 21 for 25). Crosby is 11 for 11 inside the 40.
Punting: Masthay and Packer opponents are equal in gross punting average. He's 22 of 71 inside the 20 or for touchbacks. (Opposing kickers are 29 for 73).
Interceptions: The Pack have picked off 14 passes (while only giving up 6. Randall and Shields have 3 picks apiece. Randall and Rollins are each credited with one Pick 6.
Time of Possession: Eagles 26:15 - Opponents 34:04
Turnover Ratio: +3. (They're up +8 in interceptions but down minus-5 in fumbles.
Green Bay Offense
WR....17 Adams.........89 J Jones.........83 Janis
LT.......69 Bakhtiari......67 Barclay.
LG......71 Sitton..........65 Taylor
C........63 LInsley........73 Tretter.....
RG ...79 Lang............79 J Walker
TE......82 R Rodgers...80 Perillo...........86 Backman
WR....18 Cobb............84 Abbrederis
QB.....12 A Rodgers...06 Tolzien..........07 Hundley
RB.....44 Starks..........27 Lacy..............38 Crockett
FB.....30 Kuhn............22 Ripkowski
DE 93 Campbell..........90 Redding......71 Bryant
NT 95 Gunter...............69 X Williams
DT 92 Rucker..............73 Mauro........72 Stinson
SLB 44 Golden.......... ..54 Freeney......56 Riddick
ILB 20 Bucannon.........59 Fua
ILB 51 Minter...............55 Weathrspoon
WLB 57 Okafor...............96 Martin
LCB 21 Peterson...........27 C White
RCB 25 Powers.............28 Bethel
SS 26 R Johnson.........22 Jefferson
FS 36 Swearinger
Matchup: Packer Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Rodgers is a Top 5 QB. He may not quite have the receiving weapons that the Cardinals have, but he can (and does) do whatever's necessary to put together a winning drive and points on the scoreboard.
His "home run" target is J Jones (expect Peterson to Make him his prime responsibility) but Cobb and their TE (The "other" Rodgers) are quality receivers. (Cobb and Jones have overall PFF ratings in the low 80's. Adams, Abrederris and Janis sport ratings in the 70's. R Rodgers has a PFF rating as a receiver in the low 80's.
Rodgers will be facing a shaken up Cardinal secondary that will have to play elite football without the physical presence, versatility and on-field leadership of Tyrann Mathieu (out for the season with an ACL). Expect Powers to move from CB to the Badger's nickel role and Justin Bethel to see a lot more action at corner opposite Patrick Peterson. At safety, Rashad Johnson is expected to returned from injured status and pair up deep with Tony Jefferson. That leaves Deone Bucannon to continue filling a hybrid S-LB role and Swearinger seeing more action as well.
Green Bay pass protectors are a quality unit, with three of their starting five rated in the 80's as pass blockers by Pro Football Focus (PFF). They'll be facing a Cardinal "pass rush by committee" which - while not posting gaudy sack numbers - put enough pressure on opposing passers to make them hurry their throws into a very busy secondary. Mid-season free agent signee, Dwight Freeney, is a playmaker who is beginning to round into shape and able to handle more and more passing down snaps. Golden is making his presence felt as well.
Key Matchups: Peterson vs J Jones. Freeney vs. Buloga. Swearinger vs. R Rodgers. Bucannon vs. Lacy or Starks.
Matchup: Packer Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
The return of Lacy has helped stabilize the GB running attack and get them closer to being "field-ready" for the playoffs. He's rated in the 70's both overall and as a runner. (As basis for comparison, David Johnson has a 73.6 rating as a runner.
Much of GB's rushing success is driven by the interior of its offensive line - both guards are rated in the 80's as run blockers. Their centers (Tretter and Linsley) rate in the mid70's. But both starting tackles (Bakhtieri and Buloga) are only rated as run blockers in the 30 - 40 range. You might, therefore, see Cardinal run defenders "cheating" inside to stop Lacy and Starks inside the tackles.
Key Matchups: Bucannon vs. Lacy. Cardinal D-line rotation (most notably Campbell, Gunter and Mauro) vs. Lang, Sitton and Linsley.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald..13 Jar Brown......10 Golden
LT 68 Veldheer....79 Sowell
LG 76 Iupati.........62 Larsen
C 63 Sendlein....53 Shipley
RG 61 Cooper
RT 70 Massie.......78 Watford.........74 Humphreys
TE 85 Fells...........87 Niklas
WR2 15 M. Floyd.....12 John Brown...14 Nelson
QB 03 Palmer........05 Stanton.........09 Barkley
RB 38 Ellington.....27 C Johnson....30 Taylor............33 K Williams
TE 84 Gresham
Green Bay Defense
DE........98 Gulon........95 D Jones
NT........90 Raji............64 Pennel
LOLB...96 Neal...........91 Elliott
BLB.....47 Ryan..........48 J Thomas
ROLB..56 Peppers....53 Perry............55 Mulumba
LCB ....29 Hayward....23 Randall........39 Goodson
RCB.....37 Shields......24 Rollins.........36 L Gunter
SS ....42 Burnett.......32 Banjo
FS.......21 Clinton-Dix....33 Hyde
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Packer Pass Defense
To put things in perspective - Pro Football Focus rates Carson Palmer (98.5 as a passer) ) 17.4 points higher than Aaron Rodgers (81.1). Not to say that - in terms of such non-analytic benchmarks as "Super Bowl Rings" - this makes Carson overwhelmingly better than Aaron, we do feel we can safely say that Palmer has looked "scary good" over the first 14 games this season.
Part of the reason for the 17.4 point difference can be found in the Cardinal wide receiver corps where, as pass catchers, the trio of Fitzgerald (92.0), John Brown (84.7) and Floyd (83.5) compare favorably to Cobb (74.9), J Jones (72.7) and Adams (46.2). Cardinal TE's have had their moments but have found it a challenge to be consistent, given shifts in personnel due to injuries. But all you have to do is watch the highlight reel of Fells carrying a would-be tackler down the field on his back for 20 or so yards to understand what the upside is.
GB's sackmeisters have nailed opposing QB's 5 more times than they've given up. Julius Peppers leads the defense with 9.5 sacks followed by Clay Matthews with 5.5 and Daniels (4.0). Cards have only allowed 23 sacks in 14 games (a tad under two per game). One secret to Palmer's success thus far has been his surrounding cast's ability to give him enough time to find his receivers and stay upright and clean. The Cardinal offensive line (Veldheer, Iupati, Sendlein. Larsen, Massie) desrves much of the credit as do the Cardinal rotation of RB's in blitz pickup blockers/outlet receivers.
Key Matchups: Floyd vs. Hayward. Fitz vs. Shields. John Brown vs. Randall. Veldheer vs. Peppers. Massie (& a helper) vs. C Matthews.
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Packer Run Defense
Last week David Johnson had a 187 yard/three touchdown day. He followed his blockers, shook off tacklers and had the patience to wait for running lanes to develop. If he can repeat that performance, it will give the Cardinals a huge leg-up for the balance of the regular season and the playoffs. One sticky wicket, however, "durability. Chris Johnson is on the shelf. Andre Ellington's toe is waiting to get better. That leaves us with Johnson. Kerwynn Williams and Stephon Taylor. We cannot afford to lose any more RB's to injury.
Some of our success running the ball has been due to inside blocking (Iupati made the Pro Bowl) and run-blocking by our TE (Gresham) and wideouts (most notably Fitzgerald).
The added advantage of a strong run game is that it keeps opposing pass rushers honest (& our QB healthy and more productive - since he has more time to set his feet and find receivers).
Green Bay is tough inside the run. Their safety (Clinton-Dix) is very Bucannon-like (intriguing since it's been said that the Cards traded down from the opportunity to draft Clinton-Dix in order to draft Bucannon and another pick).
Key Matchups: Iupati vs. Raji. Shipley vs. Daniels. Clinton-Dix vs. D Johnson.
P 08 Masthay
K 02 Crosby
H 08 Masthay
LS 61 Goode
KR 83 Janis
PR 33 Hyde
K 07 Catanzaro
P 02 Butler
H 02 Butler
LS 82 Leach
KR 31 D Johnson.....10 Golden
PR 21 Peterson
Matchup: Packeer Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Crosby has been perfect inside the forty. He missed three between the forty and fifty and one outside the fifty. Catanzaro has missed four XP attempts. (Can't continue to do that).
GB opponents have returned 36 Masthay punts/Packers have returned 28. (Would seem to reflect a more conservative approach to third downs by McCarthy). Return numbers by Hyde (punts) and Janis and Hyde (KO's) compared to Packer oppenents don't seem to reveal anything extraordinary.
Card special teams are OK but not as outstanding as they've been in the recent past. Cards are starting to tweak their roster (in the aftermath of injuries) with special teams in mind.
Key matchups: We don't see anything predictably special. (Often great special teams performances - blocked kicks, crunching tackles, big returns etc.) come out of nowhere when you least expect them. This is not to say that special teams play isn't important - you gotta try. Because - to quote the late Branch RIckey - "Luck is the residue of design."
Green Bay: McCarthy has an impressive past record. All he does is make the playoffs and win. One thing we've noticed this year is his willingness to avoid overextending - i.e. asking his players to do things they're unable to do. The disparity in "number of punts returned" may be an indicator - it suggests that GB punts a lot more frequently than its opponents - suggesting a reluctance to "go for it" on fourth down, not take unecessary risks or give up field position.
AZ: Then there's Bruce Arians - who'll challenge you deep early and often. He has an "old school" coaching style but is unafraid of new approaches or to stretch the play-calling envelope. HIs motto: "No risk-it/no biscuit." A fun guy to follow - and he backs it up with solid coaching fundamentals (he has a huge staff of teaching-coaches from diverse backgrounds) and a record of proven success. Impressive stack of W's hasn't hurt his credibility with the players any.
We expect Green Bay to play things close to its vest, let you beat yourselves, try to hang around late in games and then beat you on the final drive or two late in the 4Q. Key for Cards will be to play their own game while minimizing mistakes - in technique, execution, strategy or communicartion.
The loss of Tyrann Mathieu cast a pall over the entire Cardinal Family. Question looms - how will the team respond? Will it come out depressed and uncertain? Will they "play hard for the Badger?" WIll they use Ty's energy and spirit as inspiration to play better, smarter, harder? In terms of energy, enthusiasm and football smarts, Mathieu is an asset off the field as well as on. The BRS hopes that Steve Keim and Coach Arians see it that way and finds ways to utilize Tyrann's unique talents - as an inspiration and force on the sidelines and training faclilty. A win Sunday = a Bye in the playoffs.