A Low Scoring Slugfest is in the Cards

For the Pack, the bye cannot come soon enough. After last week's ugly win over the Jags, Mike McCarthy suggested he might have the same 46 to play with this week. We know that won't be the case because Jerel Worthy won't dress with a concussion. But it's safe to say none of the guys who missed the game last week are likely to dress this week.

What that means is the offense will once again be very short-handed, without Jennings, Nelson and Kuhn. This time they will face a tough mirror-image, Steelers-designed 3-4 defense that ranks in the top ten in points allowed, sacks, pass defense and total defense. DC Ray Horton loves to blitz, but that can be a risky proposition against Aaron Rodgers. He will do his best to pressure Rodgers and keep him in the pocket. Once he moves out of it, he should find open receivers against a banged up secondary that allowed Alex Smith to look like Joe Montana on Monday night. Alex Smith: 18-19. Really?

The challenge for the Pack is keeping their great DEs Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett away from #12. The challenge doesn't end there. Daryl Washington is a big-time threat from inside linebacker--he has eight sacks, good for third in the league. Watch and see whether Alex Green can do his job there. If not, there's a good chance Rodgers will need a uniform change at halftime.

You'd like to think last week's uneven offensive performance will light a fire under the unit this week, but the loss of Nelson and Kuhn is tough to overcome. McCarthy has talked about using more no huddle-- a challenge with some of the moving pieces. Nelson and Rodgers have incredible chemistry in the no huddle. It would be an effective tool against the speedy Cardinals defense.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers have a big edge. If you watched the Arizona game on Monday night, you saw what happens to an offense when it doesn't field an NFL-quality offensive line. They've lost both tackles for the season and will likely be without a starting guard on Sunday. They've surrendered 39 sacks already, most in the league. Their starting QB, Kevin Kolb, will miss another start which means John Skelton is back under center. He's understandably skittish, with very little protection and not much of a running game to go along with it.

Since starting the season 4-0, the Cards have dropped four straight, averaging just nine points per game. They managed a total of seven yards on the ground against San Francisco. They're down to their third string RB and LaRod Stephens-Howling is undersized, though he's got game-breaking ability, with four career TDs of over 70 yards. They still have elite WR Larry Fitzgerald, but he's been a non-entity in recent weeks because the rest of the offense has been so putrid.

The Pack will need to be ready on special teams, because punt returner Patrick Peterson may be the team's top scoring/field position-changing threat and could swing the momentum in a low scoring game. He took the four to the house last season.

In the NFL, urgency can swing a lot of games. The Cardinals are the team with more urgency. They were schooled in a home division game on Monday Night Football and their coach let them have it after the game, calling out players by name and pointing to this game as the one that determines which way their season plays out.

Both teams are heading into the bye after this game. McCarthy admitted his staff has taken their foot off the pedal in pre-bye games in the past and says that won't be the case this time. But he will rest six starters for this game--several of whom would likely play if the bye weren't next week. It has the makings of becoming a low scoring, intense, defense rules the day affair.

One intangible in the Pack's favor is the weather. It will likely be in the high 30s at kickoff and you can best most of the Cardinals will be in store for a rude awakening when they take the field (except #11, of course, who grew up in Minneapolis).

I think this will be another ugly, just get by performance, where the defense rules. Look for a defensive score by the Pack and look for Arizona to spend very little time in the Packers' red zone.

Packers 17 Cardinals 10


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