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Why the Green Bay Packers can beat the Arizona Cardinals

LANDOVER, Md. -- Here are three reasons the Green Bay Packers can beat the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC divisional playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday (NBC, 8:15 p.m. ET):

Aaron Rodgers: The Packers are here because of their quarterback. For all the talk about his down season, Rodgers is still almost always the best player on the field. Who would you put your money on: The two-time NFL MVP with a Super Bowl ring or Carson Palmer and his 0-2 postseason record? Rodgers doesn't have the weapons around him, but he surely has more confidence in this team now that it has advanced than he did coming off two straight losses to end the regular season. Just look at the way Rodgers played in the second quarter of Sunday's wild-card win over the Washington Redskins. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 148 yards with two touchdown passes.

Decent defense: For the first time since perhaps the Super Bowl season of 2010, the Packers have a defense on which they can depend. It might not be the turnover-machine that Dom Capers had in that playoff run, when Tramon Williams intercepted passes in both the wild-card and divisional round (returning the latter for a touchdown) and B.J. Raji returned one for a touchdown in the NFC title game and Nick Collins did the same in the Super Bowl, but it's not the leaky machine that has cost the Packers in the postseason the last few years. Even in the 38-8 loss at Arizona in Week 16, the defense held up OK. The Cardinals defense got 14 points off the Packers' offense thanks to a pair of strip-sack fumble returns for touchdowns.

Respectable special teams: Mike McCarthy hasn't gotten enough credit for turning around a special teams unit that cost the Packers a trip to the Super Bowl last season when Brandon Bostick botched the onside kick recovery in the NFC title game at Seattle. New coordinator Ron Zook has fixed most of the holes left behind by his predecessor Shawn Slocum. Kicker Mason Crosby has been solid, and punter Tim Masthay broke the team’s franchise net punting record.