Packers vs. Cardinals: Three things I'll be watching for
The Green Bay Packers (5-3) and Arizona Cardinals (4-4) represent two teams heading in entirely different directions. The Packers are riding a three game winning streak, and are looking to make it 4 in a row heading into their bye week.
After starting the season with 4 straight wins, the Cardinals have lost 4 in a row and are working on a short week after being pounded by the 49ers, 24-3 on Monday night.
Health is a concern for both teams. The Cardinals are down to their third string running back, and QB Kevin Kolb remains out with a rib injury. The Packers were minus 8 starters in their week 8 win over the Jaguars and figure to be in a similar position on Sunday. Below are three things I'll be watching for on Sunday.
Sure, the Packers have won three in a row, but their run game has regressed week by week. Alex Green is averaging less than 3 yards per carry. At this point, the run game seems to be more of a distraction than anything. What I'll be watching for is how early Mike McCarthy goes to James Starks. The third year running back is finally healthy after battling a turf toe injury since the start of the season. What McCarthy needs from the run game is a natural inside runner who can fall forward. Starks is that guy.
Man on The Run
If its one thing the Cardinals do well its attack the quarterback. Arizona is tied with Green Bay for the most sacks in the league with 26. In addition, the Cardinals are the best team in the league at forcing the quarterback out of the pocket. What I'll be watching to see is how effective Aaron Rodgers can be when flushed out of the pocket. Rodgers might be the most effective passer on the run in the NFL, but he will be playing without a few key weapons in the passing game.
I keep waiting for Finley to break out game. The last time he faced the Cardinals, he was off the charts hauling in 6 passes for 159 yards. Ultimately, it was a playoff loss for the Packers (51-45), but it was a coming out party for Finley. What I'll be watching to see is how often Finley is targeted on Sunday. There was a time where he was the focal point of the offense - then he got injured. From that point on, Mike McCarthy has geared more of the offensive game plan toward the talented wide receiver group. For what it's worth, Finley and Jordy Nelson lead the team in drops with 5.