The well-rested Arizona Cardinals are back at in the NFL Divisional Round, as a date with the Green Bay Packers awaits them at University of Phoenix Stadium. Arizona ended the 2015 season with a glimmering 13-3 SU record and earned themselves a first-round bye, while the Packers (10-6) were forced to hit the road in Wild Card Weekend and prevailed in the form of a 35-18 victory over the Washington Redskins.
You’ll have to forgive casual football fans if it appears to them like these teams have traded places, but that’s exactly what’s transpired this year. The Packers have been the class of the NFC for quite some time and aren’t used to playing the underdog role, while the Cardinals have been competitive but have failed to get over the hump in the postseason in order to establish themselves in the upper echelon of the league.
To say Green Bay’s season has been a rollercoaster ride would be a massive understatement. The Pack started off the campaign riding a high en route to a perfect 6-0 record, but things fell apart after their bye week. Four losses in their next five games off the bye put them into a dog fight for the NFC North with the Minnesota Vikings (which they eventually lost in Week 17).
Is there anyone in the playoffs who has more to prove than Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer? Palmer, 36, has channelled his inner Kurt Warner and found new life in the desert but has yet to taste real playoff success. Warner was flying high in 2014 before a knee injury ended his season, and with it, any chance of the Cardinals making a deep playoff run.
Palmer is coming off a fantastic 2015 in which he threw 35 touchdowns for 4,671 yards with just 11 interceptions. Palmer has never won a playoff game, losing in 2005 and 2009 as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. That’s where Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers has the real edge, as the Cal alum has prove time and time again he’s able to shine when it matters most. Considering Rodgers has the Packers looking like the Packers again, this game could come down to a good old fashioned shootout between Palmer and Rodgers, something football fans would love to see after a rather dry Wild Card Weekend.
Most sportsbooks opened the Cards in the 7-point ballpark, which would make the Packers the biggest underdogs they’ve been all season. If you’re looking to back the home chalk in this one you won’t face much resistance from anyone who believes history repeats itself. These teams met on December 27, where Arizona hammered Green Bay 38-8, easily covering the -6 spread.
The total opened at 50, making it the highest of any playoff game so far. In a stat that’s likely a direct correlation to the Packers’ midseason offensive woes, the OVER/UNDER went 5-11 in Green Bay’s tilts this year. Despite that record, OVER bettors will be glad to know four of those OVERs came when Mike McCarthy’s squad played on the road.
Arizona finished the season with a 9-7 O/U mark but was particularly profitable for bettors banking on low totals to end the year, as the UNDER paid out in five of Arizona’s six last six contests.