One of the best parts about sports, for me, is the competition when something is on the line. It’s that competition when you’re so close to achieving the ultimate goal that makes everything about practicing and playing worth it. Which is why this week’s NFC Divisional match ups has me so excited for football this weekend.
Four teams, two rematches, and four opportunities to silence the narrative surrounding each of these teams.
When the Arizona Cardinals host the Green Bay Packers (Saturday, 8:15 PM EST/5:15 PST) and the Carolina Panthers host the Seattle Seahawks (Sunday 1:05 PM EST/10:05 AM PST) it’s going to be quite the show. What we should also do is throw out the results from the regular season (as Minnesota taught us last weekend, a lot can change from week-to-week. Adjustments are made, tape is reviewed and new game plans are brought about.
Having said all of that, here are my thoughts on the games.
Green Bay Packers (+7.0) v. Arizona Cardinals (-7.0)
That score pretty much sums up everything you can think of about the last time these two teams met.
Yet if you’re one of the many looking back at the week 16 loss and writing off the Packers because of it I would recommend you rethink that. You see part of beating the Packers on Saturday will require Arizona being able to get to Rodgers like they did in week 16 when they were able to sack the Green Bay Quarterback eight times. Judging by the way the offensive line played against Washington (a team slightly better at getting to the Quarterback than Arizona) I don’t foresee that happening against the Cardinals.
That doesn’t mean Arizona is doomed, however. They still have one of the better secondaries in the NFL, so the Cardinals are going to look to take advantage of a Packers receiving corps that has looked mediocre without Jordy Nelson all season. They will also need to get a lot more out of their running game after watching Green Bay’s secondary shut down arguably the hottest Quarterback in the league last weekend, Kirk Cousins. In the hoopla of the lopsided victory, don’t think it was lost on Bruce Arians that his team could only muster 121 yards between three backs that game.
Obviously, the easy play here would be to pick the Cardinals at home, but I’m not going to do that. I think the Packers’ defense plays inspired and their offensive line buys the best Quarterback in football more time than they did week 16.
Prediction: Packers 24, Cardinals 21
Seattle Seahawks (+2.5) v. Carolina Panthers (-2.5)
I’ve got to hand it to Cam Newton, he’s playing MVP-level football and (hopefully) this season (finally) quieted some (unfounded) criticisms.
But I don’t like this game for Carolina.
Yeah I know the Seahawks escaped last week against the Vikings and their offense stalled in Minnesota, But the Seahawks defense appears to have found that other gear we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years. In week 17 and against the Vikings they’ve all but eliminated any chance of running on them, and I don’t like the Carolina receivers against anyone in that Seattle secondary.
Seattle, meanwhile, needs to establish the run early against a very good Carolina defense. I know Josh Norman resides in their secondary, but if you’re going to beat Carolina it’s going to be throwing the football. Wilson will, no doubt, have to create plays on the run but he’s shown he’s capable of doing so against the toughest defenses. Look for a heavy dose of Doug Baldwin this game as he’ll no doubt work from the slot (where Norman doesn’t venture).
I give all the credit in the world to the Panthers, but for the second week in a row I’m leaning all road underdogs as my picks to win.
Prediction: Seattle 17, Carolina 10
Thoughts? Let me know about’em! Follow me on Twitter @DACubbage