Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

NFL Week 16: Packers, Cardinals Play for Postseason Position

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

NFL Week 16: Packers, Cardinals Play for Postseason Position

Article excerpt

Even though both the Cardinals and the Packers have clinched NFC playoff berths, there is still plenty left to play for in Week 16 of the NFL season. Arizona has locked up the NFC West Division en route to a 12-2 record, but want to guarantee a first-round bye and can do so with a win. Meanwhile, Green Bay has a spot in the playoffs, but are setting their sights on a NFC North Division title and a home playoff game. The team must beat Arizona to maintain their lead over the Vikings and hope for a Vikings loss. In short, much to gain and much to lose for these two squads.

Many were writing off the Packers only a few weeks ago as they lost a home game to the Bears and followed it up with a miracle win in Detroit. Despite winning three in a row, the offense has looked anything but convincing, with Rodgers often willing his team to victories in close games.

The typically prolific quarterback is on pace to throw for his fewest yards per game and his lowest completion percentage of his sterling career. He has been sacked 33 times this season, already more than the 28 he was sacked all of last year and has been feeling the loss of big-play wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Luckily, the quarterback has remained mistake-free, with only a 1.2 percent interception rate and that has helped the team stay in some low- scoring contests.

Rodgers's struggles and his offensive line's ineffectiveness has the offense ranked 20th in total yards and 19th in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), according to FootballOutsiders.com. The defense has been able to pick up some of the slack, especially the pass defense, which is ranked 8th in DVOA and allows only 235.1 yards per game and a 79.9 opposing Quarterback Rating (QBR).

The defense will need to be strong against Arizona, which is arguably the best all-around team in the NFL this season. Outsiders rank the Cardinals third in both offensive and defensive DVOA, and their defense is a handful against the run and the pass. The team allows the fourth fewest rushing yards per game, 86.7, while simultaneously limiting opponent quarterbacks to a 79.2 QBR.

The leader of the secondary, Patrick Peterson, is having his best season as a pro and has elevated the unit from good to great. …

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