Green Bay (10-4) at Arizona (12-2)
When: Sunday, December 27th 2015
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix, AZ
Time: 4:25 ET | TV: FOX
The Green Bay Packers look to get one step closer to another NFC North title when they visit the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. The Packers can wrap up the division with a win today coupled by a Minnesota loss to the Giants later on Sunday night. Green Bay has won three in a row and the offense has kicked it into gear scoring at least 27 points in each of those games. Aaron Rodgers is completing a career-worst 60.8% of his passes, but still has 29 touchdowns to only six interceptions despite not having his top receiver Jordy Nelson since Week 1. The big play threat just isn’t there right now which is why the Packers rank 26th in the league in passing. The running game has stepped it up led by Eddie Lacey’s resurgence and James Starks’ big runs. Lacy rushed for at least 100 yards in three of his previous four games before being limited to just 23 yards on 11 carries in last week’s win over Oakland. Lacey was limited in practice with a rib injury, but is not on the inury report. Backup Starks is averaging six yards per carry over the last two games and has 40 catches out of the backfield this season. On the defensive side of the ball, veteran linebacker Julius Peppers had 2.5 sacks against Oakland and sits only a half a sack shy of 10 for the ninth time in his career. CB Sam Shields hasn’t been cleared to return from a concussion and is in line to miss his second straight game.
The Cardinals are looking for their ninth straight victory after demolishing the Eagles 40-17 last Sunday night. Quarterback Carson Palmer improved to 25-4 in his last 29 starts and tied his career high with his 32nd passing touchdown last week as Arizona clinched the NFC West title. Arizona can clinch a first-round bye by winning today or if Green Bay loses to Minnesota in Week 17. Rookie running back David Johnson has bolted on the scene with a flourish since claiming the starting job three games ago. He ran for 187 yards and three touchdowns last week against Philadelphia. The 24-year-old has 378 yards in three games and his 12 touchdowns (seven rushing, four receiving, one kickoff return) are a franchise rookie record. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is only four catches shy of his career high of 103 set in 2005. He has just eight catches for 84 yards in the last two games after catching at least eight in each of his previous five games. LB Deone Bucannon won NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors with his 11 tackle performance last week and also returned an interception for a touchdown. The defense will be without Pro-Bowl selection Tyrann Mathieu who is out with a season-ending knee injury.
The Cardinals are hot, but the Packers are playing well enough right now to at least cover the 4.5 points Vegas is giving us. Rodgers should be able to exploit the secondary with Mathieu out as the Cardinals were just 15th in the league against the pass with him. A back-door cover is a very possible scenario.
Pick: Packers +4.5