Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals: Pack are back to avenge their house-of-horrors show

Fitness First: despite problems with weight gain, Eddie Lacy is running himself into shape and form
Fitness First: despite problems with weight gain, Eddie Lacy is running himself into shape and form

Give Aaron Rodgers a chance to reassert his MVP credentials once more, says Romilly Evans, as the resurgent Packers bid to prove they're no dead ducks against awesome Arizona

"The University of Phoenix Stadium is never one of the more intimidating arenas on the NFL circuit."

Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals
Start-time: Sunday, 01:15
TV: Live on SS1

Ask the Arizona Cardinals where they stand on the Green Bay Packers, and their answer would be on the jugular. Just over a fortnight ago, they pulverized them 38-8 at home, outmatching them in every head-to-head department. Now Arizona are asked to repeat the feat for a spot in the NFC Conference Round. And we are asking is there any reason why they can't?

After all, the Cardinals have enjoyed another bye week in which to rest their weary limbs, while the Packers have picked up more cuts and scrapes from their Wildcard match in Washington. Yet Green Bay's skinning of the Skins will have done more for morale than it will have taken any physical toll. Indeed, arguably for the first time since the regular season's midpoint, they looked like a side who were clicking on both sides of the ball.

Despite going 11-0 down on the road, air marshal Aaron Rodgers rallied his troops with a signature display of elan and energy, extending plays in the pocket with his mobility and hitting his targets when it mattered most. Among them was wideout Davante Adams, who fashioned his biggest impact (four catches for a TD and 48 yards) since a stellar pre-season. Adams newfound ability to catch breathed new life into Rodgers' receiving corps, so Sunday's late knee injury is a big blow - and the reason why Green Bay have drifted (out to 3.613/5) in the markets midweek.

However, whether Adams makes a miraculous recovery or not, all is not lost for the Pack. Fellow wideman Randall Cobb also made a welcome return to form, but it was the belated establishment of a running game which could prove the most crucial component here. Eddie Lacy and James Starks moved the chains with progressive purpose, and are comparatively fresh runners this term with a point to prove. So if they can start quickly here (thereby offering their feared passing game some element of surprise), a beleaguered GBO-line has just shown that they can give Rodgers enough protection.

On the other side of the park, Arizona will repel boarders through QB Carson Palmer and one of the rushing revelations of the campaign, David Johnson. Green Bay linebackers like Jake Ryan will seek to shut him down, and can take some general heart from the Cardinals' 36-6 home humiliation last time out. Granted, that was against Seattle's Legion of Boom (and with Palmer rested during the third quarter) but the stench of that total eclipse could linger long. Especially at the University of Phoenix Stadium, which is never one of the more intimidating arenas on the NFL circuit.

In essence, then, Arizona need to suck the poison from that House of Cards performance, whereas Green Bay need to ride their new wave of wellbeing into the same fragility the Hawks exposed. The Cardinals are worthy favourites after a grand regular season, but this is play-off country where Rodgers comes alive. The resurgence of their running game only applies more topspin to the sense that the Packers are live runners for the Super Bowl, and they can at least take this game down to the wire.

Recommended Bets

Back Green Bay Packers (+7.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.824/5 or better
Back Green Bay Packers (+3.5) to win on the First Half Handicap @ 2.01/1 or better
Back Green Bay Packers Halftime - Arizona Cardinals Fulltime @ 9.08/1 or better
Back Under 49.5 Total Points @ 2.01/1 or better
Back E. Lacy to score First / Anytime Touchdown 11.010/1 or better
Back R. Cobb to score First / Anytime Touchdown 12.011/1 or better

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