NFL week 9, Cardinals vs. Packers: What must the Cards do to pull off a surprise victory?

Scott Boehm

Arizona will have their hands full matching up against NFL MVP quarterback, Aaron Rodgers and the lethal passing attack of the Packers.

The Cardinals look to end a four game skid after starting the season with a 4-0 record by defeating the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Arizona, statistically host to one of the best passing defenses in the NFL through the first eight weeks, looked porous against an average passing attack of the 49ers last Monday night. Things could get even uglier with Aaron Rodgers, the league's current MVP, hurling the ball downfield.

Like the Cardinals did to beat the Patriots in week 2, I would suspect that they play plenty of nickel defense. The Packers have one of the worst running games in the NFL, as Cedric Benson was placed on injured reserve. They are currently 26th in the NFL, gaining around 90 yards per game on the ground. That should allow the Cardinals to remove nose tackle Dan Williams from the game, playing two down linemen and bringing in an extra defensive back.

Arizona must also take advantage of the plethora of injuries plaguing the Packers. Greg Jennings has already been ruled out for the game after having surgery on his abdomen and Jordy Nelson may be inactive with a hamstring injury as well. That will leave James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley as the team's top pass catchers. The Cardinals will need to force the Packers to run the ball, taking away the air game. Easy, right?

Getting pressure on Rodgers without having to send the house will be important. Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton commented earlier this week on how he needs to call a perfect game in order to stop the Pack. The team needs to keep as many players in coverage as possible, but still be able to pressure the Packers. That shouldn't be overly difficult as the Packers have given up the 2nd most sacks in the NFL right behind, guess who, the Cardinals.

On offense, it will inevitably come down to how well John Skelton plays. He has the weapons surrounding him, but can he move the ball down the field in order to outscore the Packers' ferocious offense? With Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams out, it is tough to ask LaRod Stephens-Howling, the 5'7", 185 pound running back to carry the load by himself. Getting the ball outside to him on screen plays and quick throws is important. Skelton knows this is necessary with the less than capable offensive line protecting him.

This game is going to be a shootout and could very well be decided by which team can get on the board first. Neither team is capable of running the ball very well, so look to see plenty of passes from each quarterback. The biggest key is for each team to protect their respective quarterbacks. Whoever can do that the best will win this game.

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