3

November

Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers Key Matchups

Arizona Cardinals Daryl Washington

The Packers need to keep Cardinals LB Daryl Washington as far from Aaron Rodgers as possible on Sunday

The Arizona Cardinals visit Lambeau Field this week in desperate need of a win, having lost their last four games after starting 4-0.  The Green Bay Packers have won three straight and want to head into their much needed bye week at 6-3.  Let’s jump into the key matchups that will determine the fate of this week’s game.

Offensive Lines vs. Pass Rush

Both Green Bay and Arizona head into this game in 1st and 2nd place, respectively, in QB sacks.  Each is also surrendering more than any team.  Many have already dubbed this game a “sack fest”.  Of course, games aren’t played on paper as we saw last week in the Packers/Jaguars game.

Each team’s offensive line has come under fire this season for inconsistent play.

Green Bay’s unit has struggled in their run blocking as well as in spots in pass blocking.  Newly acquired center Jeff Saturday hasn’t been what many Packer fans had hoped thus far.  Steady right tackle Bryan Bulaga has committed more penalties than in the past.

Arizona’s line has had troubles of their own.  Who could forget that week 5 game against St. Louis in which Cardinal quarterback Kevin Kolb was sacked nine times in a losing effort.  Just a few weeks later, Kolb would be taken down five times by the Buffalo Bills and forced out of that game with a rib injury.

It would seem like this will become a chess match in who can more creatively protect their quarterback.  Putting added protection in the backfield means less hands available at receiver.  With Packer wideout’s Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson likely to miss this game, it puts each team’s receiving units at about equal.  Arizona has All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald on their side while the Packers have the hot hands in Randall Cobb and James Jones.

It goes without saying that the team that wins this battle likely sits in the driver’s seat to a win on Sunday.

If the Cardinals should elect to blitz Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, they better have a backup plan.  Rodgers is, once again, having a stellar season throwing against the blitz.  At least ten of his 21 TD passes this season have come against an added pass rusher.

31

October

Around the NFC North in Week 9

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 9

Week 9 brings us to the start of the 2012 season’s second half.  Quick trivia:  Which is the NFL’s only division with three teams over .500?  You’re correct if you guessed the NFC North.  Let’s dive into the matchups around the division this week.

Chicago Bears (6-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-5)

The Bears are rolling, the Titans are not.  About the only thing in Tennessee’s favor this week is that it’s a home game.

The Bears narrowly escaped with a home win over Carolina while Tennessee came up just short against the Indianapolis Colts in overtime.  As the saying goes, good teams find a way to win and Chicago keeps doing it week after week.  They find themselves alone in 1st place atop the NFC North.

Tennessee has had solid play from backup QB Matt Hasselbeck in place of injured Jake Locker.  Hasselbeck will start Sunday against the Bears.  Unfortunately, Hasselbeck is the only Titans player who has played well consistently and the team has not been able to string consecutive wins together.

Titans RB Chris Johnson has flashed some of his vintage self lately, but not enough to put the team on his back.  The Bears are giving up a stingy 77 yards/game rushing and Johnson will be the focal point of their defensive game plan.

The big focus for the Titans and Hasselbeck is taking care of the football.  Chicago has mustered 16 interceptions in 7 games this season and they lead the league in takeaways.  They are also a top-scoring defense so they are making those turnovers count.  Hasselbeck has thrown four interceptions compared to six touchdown passes.  His task will not be an easy one this Sunday.

For the Bears, the game plan is simple:  run to daylight.  Tennessee is surrendering 140 yards/game on the ground and the Bears happen to have a guy named Forte on their side.  I’m no fantasy football expert but I say: start Forte!  If Chicago builds a solid lead, you’ll see a good dose of Michael Bush as well.

While the rest of the North needs the Bears to slow down a tick, it likely doesn’t happen this week.