GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy had his speech ready to go. He was prepared to tell his team to embrace its role as playoff underdogs.
To hear McCarthy tell it, he even delivered a few lines of it last week when the Green Bay Packers began preparation for their playoff opener at Washington.
And then he stopped.
“I dumped it,” McCarthy said. “I mean, that’s not us.”
It’s certainly not in the ultra-confident McCarthy’s persona. Perhaps he remembered his message from late in the 2010 season, when he proclaimed that the Packers were “nobody’s underdog” despite an 8-6 record with two games remaining in what would become their Super Bowl-winning season.
It’s essentially the same message he delivered on Monday as he turned his attention to Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game at the second-seeded Arizona Cardinals. The fifth-seeded Packers, coming off the 35-18 wild-card win over the Redskins, opened as a 7-point underdog. Along with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who also are a touchdown underdog at Denver, the Packers are the biggest underdogs of the divisional round.
“I get what people are saying, [but] we’re not going to be an underdog,” McCarthy said. “We’re no underdog going to Arizona. I don’t care what people think or how we’re picked or things like that. We’re going out there to win, and we expect to win.”
Seven points might not be enough to entice anyone to take the Packers after what happened in Arizona two weeks ago. The Cardinals scored the first 31 points of the game on the way to a 38-8 win in Week 16.
“That was one of the most embarrassing losses I’ve been a part of,” Packers right guard T.J. Lang said. “So yeah, we’re happy to get another shot at those guys. We know it’s going to be a tough one. We know we’re going to have to face adversity at some point in that game. It happens in every game, but if we handle it the way we did [against the Redskins], we’re going to feel pretty confident.”
The Cardinals should be the ones who feel confident after they rewatch the film from two days after Christmas. They roughed up Aaron Rodgers, sacking him eight times before McCarthy mercifully took him out in the fourth quarter. Rodgers didn’t have his blindside protector, left tackle David Bakhtiari, who still hasn’t returned from the ankle injury he suffered in Week 15.
Don Barclay was a turnstile, allowing four sacks -- including one of the two strip-sacks that the Cardinals recovered and returned for touchdowns. After trying Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton at left tackle in the regular-season finale, the Packers turned to JC Tretter against the Redskins. He did well enough to earn another start if Bakhtiari remains sidelined.
The Cardinals will be well-rested coming off their bye week, although they looked out of sorts in their 36-6 loss to the Seahawks to close the regular season.
“We kind of felt like this was a possibility to be able to go back there after that loss,” Rodgers said. “We’re coming off obviously a big win and their last game they got beat by a lot. It’s going to be a more competitive game, I’ll bet.”