Expert's Final Thoughts On Packers vs. Cardinals Playoffs Matchup

Kevin Stott

Friday, January 15, 2016 11:55 PM UTC

Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 11:55 PM UTC

The Arizona Cardinals v3.0 is ready for the Postseason, and maybe for the first time in franchise history, it seems the team positioned itself for the Postseason ala the Patriots and Spurs.

***ATS NFL Picks For Divisional Playoffs***
***O/U NFL Picks For Divisional Playoffs***
***ML NFL Picks For Divisional Playoffs***

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NFL Picks: Cardinals -7, Over 49 
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes


But maybe it’s just a byproduct of the NFC West winner’s great start and ability to shift down into third gear. On Saturday, the Packers head to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale to try to upset this Offensive juggernaut and the so-called Sharps have reportedly been all over the host Cardinals here, but why, and are they on to something? Let’s do a deep-dive handicap and offer up an NFL pick or two. Or three.


Odds Overview
Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals [Sunday 01:15] (NBC (US), Sky Sports 2/HD (UK), 8:15 p.m. EST/5:15 p.m. PST): Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS) head to University of Phoenix Stadium (Grass) in Glendale, Arizona (Mostly Cloudy, High 58° Fahrenheit, Winds S 2-7 mph, Humidity 43%) on Saturday night to face Carson Palmer and the the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals (12-4 SU, 12-3-1 ATS) in the first NFC Divisional Round Playoff game of the weekend. Current NFL odds (Friday morning) see the host Cardinals in a 6½- (-130, Treasure Island) to 7½-point (Sportsbet, Atlantis Reno) range as the Home favorites with almost all sportsbooks Offshore, in Europe and here in Las Vegas (but these three) hanging a 7 right now while the Total (Points) is also like the number books are offering with 50’s almost everywhere although solid (likely Sharps) movement in the last two hours (during writing) has been on the Under, with Pinnacle now showing a 49 on the sports odds screens (down from 50).

In the Money Line (Winner) marketplace, the Cardinals are priced at -295 with the Packers lined at +260 on the takeback (Pinnacle). The Arizona Cardinals Total Team Points is at 28½ (Ladbrokes) while the Green Bay Packers Total Team Points is at 21½ (Ladbrokes). The First Half Total is 24 (Over -125, Paddy Power) while the 1st Half Point Spread sees the Cardinals as 4½-point chalks (-120, Paddy Power).


Last 10 Final Scores Green Bay Packers-Arizona Cardinals Series
2015—@ Cardinals 38 Packers 8 (AZ -6) Total Points Scored: 46 (Under, 50)
2012—@ Packers 31 Cardinals 17 (GB-10½) Total Points Scored: 48 (Over, 43)
2010—@ Cardinals 51 Packers 45 OT (GB -2½) Points: 96 (Over, 48½) (NFC Playoffs)
2010—Packers 33 @ Cardinals 7 (AZ -3) Total Points Scored: 40 (Under, 41½)
2006—@ Packers 31 Cardinals 14 (GB -4) Total Points Scored: 45 (Over, 44½)
2003— @ Cardinals 20 Packers 13 (GB -7½) Points: 33 (Under, 43) (Sun Devil Stadium)
2000—Packers 29 @ Cardinals 3 (AZ -2) Points: 32 (Under, 42) (Sun Devil Stadium)
2000—@ Packers 49 Cardinals 24 (GB -9) Points: 73 (Over, 39)
1990—Packers 24 @ Phx Cardinals 21 (GB -4½) Points: 45 (Over, 41) (Sun Devil Stadium)
1988—Packers 28 @ Cardinals 17 (N/A) Total Points Scored: 45 (Sun Devil Stadium)


Thoughts On The Total (Points)
Lowest Total in Market: 49 (Pinnacle)

Current Consensus Total in Market: 50

Highest Total in Market: 50½ (Sportsbet, Atlantis Reno)


Totals Trends, Thought
The past 10 meetings in this series is somewhat rendered meaningless by the infrequency at which these two have actually played as well as the 27-season span in the L10 games. By contrast, if divisional teams somehow meet in the NFL Playoffs, teams can end up playing each other three times in a given season—like the AFC North Bengals and Steelers this season—so a 10-game Sample Size over 27 years is like judging a Summer’s mosquito problem by the results from a couple of days in early June. This data is so old the Cardinals were the Phoenix Cardinals in the first of the 10 meetings and the year was 1988 when half of y’all woodpeckers weren’t even born. So, probably best to ignore it, pay attention to the last meeting a little, which was very recent history and played at the same site (University of Phoenix), and think about what players will be on the field and which ones won’t be. For Arizona (9-7 O/U), S Tyrann “The Honey Badger” Mathieu (Knee, I-R) and RB Chris Johnson are Out while RB Andre Ellington is Questionable while WR Davante Adams (Knee) is listed as Doubtful and may be the biggest (recent) Injury blow heading in here, giving Rodgers one less WR with which to work with his main man Jordy Nelson already gone for the season. And doing so in hostile territory against a better team who look to be getting one of their talented WRs (Michael Floyd, +180 Anytime TD Scorer, Paddy Power) back in the mix.

So what does all of this mean for the Total? Maybe not too much as these teams would be passing, passing, passing in this game no matter what and the University of Phoenix Stadium seems and looks to play more like an Indoor Stadium with an always-perfect (Grass) playing surface which leads to Weather and Wind having little impact on the game and the hosts being able to mold a heavy passing team around Carson Palmer with a great stable of Receivers including future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald (+110 Anytime TD scorer, William Hill), the electric John Brown (+120 Anytime TD scorer, Paddy Power), the aforementioned Floyd, WR Jaron Brown (+450 Anytime TD scorer, William Hill) and Oklahoma product TE Jermaine Gresham (+400 Anytime TD scorer, Betfred). With the Site and Surface, the Situation (do-or-die), the QBs and the Receivers here, this game is a hard one to consider the Under and this one should top the 50-point mark with both teams possibly going over their respective team Points Totals, but the Packers have been an Under team this season (11-6 Unders). The Under is 9-3 ATS the L12 Packers games played on Grass (UoP Stadium) and Green Bay Unders are 9-3 the L12 vs. NFC opponents, including that last meeting between these two in December which went Under by (just) 4 points.

Why Take the Arizona Cardinals and Lay the Lumber (In List Form Por Favor)
The Arizona Cardinals -7 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) seems worth a solid play against the Point Spread in this NFC Divisional Playoff game from the Valley of the Sun even though cardinal starting QB Carson palmer has yet to win a postseason game. Here’s why...

1—The Last Meeting. Here in Glendale. December 27, 2015. The day after the day after Christmas. The Birds buried the Cheeseheads, 38-8, easily covering as 6-point favorites with that game going Under the Total of 50, the same number hanging here today at almost every sportsbook from here to Uranus. The Logic? If Arizona covered the Point spread (-6) by 25 points less than a month ago in a game that wasn’t a do-or-die date, why wouldn’t they beat Green Bay (Defense ranks #15 in NFL, 5,547 yards, 346.7 ypg, 20.2 ppg in Regular Season) at least 8 in the same place in a game that does matter?

2—The Cardinals are the better team with the better Roster with higher expectations and won’t have to play around Injuries as much as Green Bay (Nelson, Adams) will. The Packers have had major problems on the OL all season and with OL David Bakhtiari (Ankle) listed as Questionable and the Arizona D much better than the Redskins unit they faced in the Wild Card Round (Cardinals Defense ranks #5 in NFL, 5,147 yards, 321.7 ypg, 19.6 ppg), Rodgers should be rushed meaning WR Randall Cobb (+137 Anytime TD Scorer, Sky Bet), WR James Jones (+162 Anytime TD Scorer, Sky Bet), RB James Starks (+190 Anytime TD Scorer, Ladbrokes) and TE Richard Rodgers (+225 Anytime TD Scorer, Sky Bet) will all be targeted heavily unless RB Eddie Lacy (+120 Anytime TD Scorer, Sky Bet) somehow runs wild for 150+ yards and takes the pressure of the Green Bay passing game, an unlikely scenario. Arizona is the only team in the NFL to average more than 1.0 yard per play than opponents, no small feat.

3—The Homefield Advantage. Even though there will certainly be tons of Cheeseheads in attendance in suburban Phoenix and the Sonoran Desert on Saturday. Like Steelers fans and DraftKings ads, they are everywhere. Even the Moon. Rumor has it God’s favorite Angel Timothy has a foam chunk of Cheddar on his head as you read these words. And as you can see, the Home team has W3 straight in this NFC series and 5 of the L6 and Site always matters.

4—The Extra Week Rest. And each team’s Opponent last weekend. For the #5-seed Packers (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS in Regular Season) it was the NFC East champion Redskins. And for the Cardinals (13-3 SU, 9-7 ATS) it was their warm, comfortable Beds and their Pillows. Both Green Bay and Arizona won last week, although getting an extra week’s Rest and the precious Time to get valuable players like WR Michael Floyd (Knee), DT Frostee Rucker (Ankle), OLB Markus Golden and DT Josh Mauro back and ready to knock some heads is huge.

5—Because the Cardinals (3-5 ATS at Home, 3-7 ATS L10 on Grass) actually believe they can get to, and win Super Bowl 50 this year and with brilliant 3rd-year Head Coach Bruce Arians, this Roster, the team balance and the underrated fan base, they definitely can. The NFC West has quietly become that other room—like the AFC North—in the NFL that the other six divisions don’t want to go into. The Cardinals (+450 to win Super Bowl, Betway) have constantly had to Fear, and scheme lately for the defending NFC champion and near two-time Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. So if wrestling with an Alligator twice a year, every damn year gets you ready for wrestling with a mean Goat, then you’re better prepared. Fear (of the Seahawks) has helped carved this Cardinals Roster and current mentality.

And if cutting your teeth on one of the best Defenses in NFL history for three straight seasons has helped make your (Arizona) Offense (#1 in NFL, 6,533 yards, 408.3 ypg, 30.6 ppg) into the Scoring Machine you’ve basically had to become just to ensure you can somehow survive divisional play and somehow get (at least) a Wild card berth, then you owe Seattle a great deal of credit...while begrudgingly hoping Carolina beats them so you won’t have to see their damn helmets a third time next weekend should you win. Arizona is a great football team now because of Seattle and Fear of the Seahawks. And this game may have nothing to do with the beat-up and aging Packers (Offense ranks #23 in NFL, 5,5353 yards, 334.6 ypg, 23.0 ppg) in the big scheme of things.


Trends, How This NFC Divisional Playoff Round Game in the Sonoran Desert May Play Out Saturday Night
When you average over 400 ypg and 30 ppg like these Cardinals do and you’re not an Arena Football League team, then basically your Offense is making Life a living hell week-in, week-out for opposing Defenses. And that could be the case here. Whereas last season Green Bay and QB Rodgers (36-3O ATS on Road) had that wonderful duo of Nelson and Cobb at WR, the Nelson injury changed the whole season for Green Bay (9-3 ATS L12 Playoff games) which has been trying to play around his absence as well as its OL woes. Arizona not only has Fitzgerald and Floyd, but the two Browns—John and Jaron—two waterbug WRs perfect for Palmer to go deep and to stretch Defenses. Trend-wise, the Cardinals are 8-3 ATS their L11 Saturday games and the Cardinals are 21-9 ATS their L30 against NFC opponents. Green Bay (14/1 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) looked pretty good at Washington last week, winning 34-17 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland, but the difference in playing the Redskins and the Cardinals is immense.

The Packers will also be losing 1 Body Clock Hour traveling from Wisconsin (CST) to Arizona (MST), but that shouldn’t matter too much and it seems the big thing here is Will the Packers OL be able to protect Rodgers?—and will Bakhtiari be able to play?—and will RB Lacy (+120 Anytime TD Score, Sky Bet) be able to be really effective and take some pressure off Rodgers, the OL and Green Bay’s Passing game? RB Starks may also be able to provide some needed production as well as WR Jones, but it seems the Packers will need monster games from WR Cobb and RB Lacy to pull off the upset here. Green Bay just hasn’t been playing good football all season long (if you watched) and they know it. Getting to this point took everything from Head Coach Mike McCarthy and the Packers (+5 TO Differential, Tied #10 in NFL) and despite Rodgers proclamations this team has its Mojo back and the possibility Green Bay could be able to score way more than the 8 points they got here last month—Arizona is #32 in NFL in Total Tackles—the Cardinals (+9 TO Differential, #4 in NFL) have become extremely well-rounded, are glad to have a healthy Palmer back for an entire Regular Season and may be better than the Cardinals team that made the Super Bowl a couple of years back. University of Pittsburgh product Larry Fitzgerald would be able to let us all know. Expect Arizona to outscore Green Bay here in an entertaining track meet-type tuneup for the Panthers-Seahawks winner in a great NFC Championship Game which could very well provide this year’s new NFL champs.

Predicted Final Score: Cardinals 34 Packers 24

Proposition Bet Pick: John Brown Anytime TD Scorer +120 (William Hill)

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