4:40 PM ET, January 10, 2010
U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
This week will prove which approach worked best.
Arizona (10-6) learned before kickoff last week thats its chances for a first-round bye were gone, and coach Ken Whisenhunt chose a cautious approach against Green Bay (11-5). Warner played two series before being replaced by Matt Leinart in a 33-7 loss.
"We stuck with our plan, what we intended to do," Whisenhunt said. "That's difficult, especially when the score got the way it did. Hopefully, that will help us this week. Ultimately, that's what the most important thing is."
In contrast, Packers coach Mike McCarthy stuck with Rodgers and most of his starters through three quarters as his team built a 33-point lead. Green Bay completed the second half of the year with an NFC-best 7-1 mark.
"I'm not going to stand here and act like I have all the answers," McCarthy said. "But I have the pulse of my football team. Our football team needed to stay on course. ... I thought it was important to take this last opportunity to make sure that we were playing the best we possibly could coming out of the regular season."
Both teams sustained injuries to key players. For Arizona, wide receiver Anquan Boldin has a sprained left ankle, defensive end Calais Campbell a broken left thumb and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a bruised left kneecap.
Campbell and Rodgers-Cromartie both practiced this week, but Boldin has not and he will be a game-time decision.
"I'm doing everything within my power to make sure I'm on the field Sunday," Boldin said Friday. "If I'm not able to go, trust me, it won't be anything I didn't do."
For Green Bay, Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson left the game before halftime with a shoulder strain. Woodson had picked off Leinart to tie for the NFL lead with his ninth interception and ran it back 45 yards for a score. He expects to be OK for the rematch.
"The shoulder's already banged up, and you get the sharp pain on the initial blow and it always seems like it's worse than it is," Woodson said. "I'll be fine. I could've gone back in if I had to."
The game last weekend did nothing to deter the confidence of Rodgers, who has shined since replacing Brett Favre under center. Rodgers completed 21 of 26 passes for 235 yards and one score and finished fourth in the league with 4,434 yards passing, becoming the first player in NFL history to throw for 4,000 in each of his first two seasons as a starter.
Rodgers also guided the first-team offense to 31 points on six first-half possessions Aug. 28 in a 44-37 win at Arizona in the preseason. He said that the Cardinals used a fairly "vanilla" defense last week.
"It's going to be a different game for sure," Rodgers said. "They're going to play way different on defense. We're going to play different on offense."
He'll be up against a fellow Pro Bowl selection in Warner, who has posted the three highest passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history. Warner, 8-3 in the postseason, was spectacular in last year's playoffs with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions as the Cardinals fell just short of winning their first Super Bowl.
Although Warner got a limited look on the field at the Packers, he's aware of the problems the NFC's top defense can present.
"You watch what they do, you watch how they approach things, you look at players, you see them up close and personal, and you understand you have your work cut out for you," Warner said.
Warner's favorite target is Pro Bowl wideout Larry Fitzgerald, whose production slipped a bit to 1,092 yards from last season's career-high total of 1,431. Fitzgerald was sensational in the 2009 playoffs with seven touchdowns and an average of 136.5 yards in four games.
A healthy Woodson would go a long way toward containing Fitzgerald.
"I think the playoffs are going to be a different monster," Woodson said. "We've got to get this game out of our head, we've got to get the preseason game out of our head. And we've got to come out in the postseason and understand they're going to come out fired up. And we've got to do the same thing."
The team that has lost the Super Bowl hasn't made it back since Buffalo made four straight appearances from 1991-94. The Cardinals believe their postseason experience gives them a decided advantage against the youngest team in the NFL.
"I guess if they want to celebrate it they can go ahead," Pro Bowl defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "But us personally, we know we've got some work to do and our main focus is next weekend."
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1. What's the mindset for this game? It was very clear on Sunday that the Cardinals were not ready to play in their blowout loss to Green Bay at home, but what kind of carryover effect will that have this week? Arizona played a vanilla defensive game plan on Sunday. And, on offense, the Cardinals stayed basic and played with a lot of backups. They rely on a creative game plan and excellent schemes and preparation, and this rematch will be totally different in their eyes. The Packers approached last week as a normal game that they needed to win to maintain momentum, and they played that way. Both teams believe they had the right approach to Week 17. We will know the answer Sunday night.
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|Avg Points Allowed||51.0||45.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||GB|
|Rush Yds Allowed||GB|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Series tied 2-2|
|Jan 3, 2010||GB 33, @ARI 7|
|Oct 29, 2006||GB 31, ARI 14|
|Sep 21, 2003||GB 13, @ARI 20|