Preview: Needing a win, Packers brace for Cardinals’ pass rush
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Josh Rosen abides by “The Dude,” and he’s not referring directly to the character from the film, “The Big Lebowski,” either.
“It was just he’s that guy, that man,” Rosen said about Rodgers’ resemblance to the laid-back movie character. “I guess I thought it was funny.”
The Cardinals’ rookie and the two-time NFL MVP have struck up a friendship that seems to go beyond football.
Come Sunday, the Packers hope to teach Rosen a lesson when Arizona visits Lambeau Field.
Green Bay (4-6-1) desperately needs a win to keep alive their fading playoff aspirations. The beleaguered Cardinals (2-9), who have the worst offense in the league, might just be the foe that they need to face to get going.
“We’ve put ourselves in this hole, and now we’ve got to find a way to climb out,” Rodgers said.
Green Bay limped through its past five games having lost all four on the road and beating Miami at home. Coach Mike McCarthy’s club finishes the season with three of five at home. Four of the opponents have losing records, so a glimmer of hope remains especially if the Packers can win out.
But they can’t afford to look that far ahead, especially with nagging problems on offense.
Of particular concern are problems with third down conversions (37 percent), where the Packers are just 24th in the league. They could use veteran receiver Randall Cobb, who has been sidelined by a hamstring injury, to help in those situations.
Now Green Bay has to face a defense that leads the NFC with 37 sacks, with a line hit by recent injuries. Left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) and left guard Lane Taylor (quad) were each on the injury report during the week.
Yet even in what’s considered a down year for the Packers, coach Steve Wilks is wary of Rodgers.
“Is he a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Yes, he is,” Wilks said. “We’ve got to do a great job on the outside of disrupting timing with their receivers … trying to throw off some timing and make him hold on to the football.”
Maybe Rosen will even get some tips from Rodgers after the game. He doesn’t mind being called “The Dude.”
“It’s right at the top of compliments,” Rodgers said.
Other notes and things to watch:
RODGERS VS. CARDINALS
They probably aren’t his greatest memories, but Rodgers played a pivotal role in two of the most dramatic Cardinals playoff victories.
Back in the 2010 wild-card game, Rodgers and Kurt Warner staged a memorable passing duel in Arizona’s 51-45 overtime victory. In a 2016 divisional playoff game, Rodgers somehow converted two desperation passes in the final seconds to force overtime. But Arizona won the coin toss in OT and Carson Palmer connected with Larry Fitzgerald on a 75-yard play that set up a 5-yard shovel pass to Fitzgerald for the winning touchdown.
Speaking of Fitzgerald, the veteran receiver with 1,278 catches needs four to pass Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (1,281 with 49ers) for most receptions in NFL history with one team. Rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander, who was seven when Fitzgerald broke into the league 15 seasons ago, might have to cover the veteran.
“So I mean it’s pretty wild to think about it. But I’ve got my young legs under me so I’m good,” Alexander said.
AT THE BOTTOM
Rosen took over as the starter in Week 4. Wilks said that the rookie has been a little inconsistent but “making strides.” He’s completing 55 percent of passes with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Cardinals have the 32nd and worst offense in the league.
“He’s moving forward, he’s progressing. Do we need more consistency? Yes,” Wilks said.
The game features one of the top pass rushes in the NFC. The Cardinals’ Chandler Jones is fourth in the NFL with 11 sacks, including 4½ over his past three games.
“He jumps off the tape,” McCarthy said. “So obviously he’ll be a focal point for us.”
The Packers might have backup Jason Spriggs protecting Rodgers’ blind side if Bakhtiari can’t play.
Zane Gonzalez will get a second chance as an NFL kicker when he takes over the job for the Cardinals on Sunday after veteran Phil Dawson was placed on injured reserve. Gonzalez was an All-American kicker at Arizona State and was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the seventh round and earned the kicking job in training camp. But he was released after two games this season after missing two field goals and two extra points against New Orleans.
ARIZONA (2-9) at GREEN BAY (4-6-1)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox
OPENING LINE — Packers by 11
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Arizona 5-6, Green Bay 4-6-1
SERIES RECORD — Packers lead 45-25-4
LAST MEETING — Cardinals beat Packers 26-20, OT, Jan. 16, 2016 divisional playoff
LAST WEEK — Cardinals lost to Chargers 45-10; Packers lost to Vikings 24-17
AP PRO32 RANKING — Cardinals No. 32, Packers No. 19
CARDINALS OFFENSE — OVERALL (32), RUSH (32), PASS (32).
CARDINALS DEFENSE — OVERALL (19), RUSH (30), PASS (4).
PACKERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (10), RUSH (21), PASS (8).
PACKERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (12), RUSH (23), PASS (9).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES —Second-oldest rivalry in NFL dating back to 1921 when teams were in American Professional Football Association, Cardinals representing Chicago. … Cardinals rookie QB Josh Rosen looking for TD pass in sixth straight game. … RB David Johnson averaging 129 yards from scrimmage over last four outings. … OL features two rookies in C Mason Cole and T Korey Cunningham. … WR Larry Fitzgerald needs four catches to pass Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (1,281 with 49ers) for most receptions in NFL history with one team. Fitzgerald has scored in all five previous games against Packers, including playoffs. … DE Chandler Jones (11 sacks) only player in NFL with at least 11 sacks in each of last three seasons. … DT Robert Nkemdiche had career highs of eight tackles and 2 1/2 sacks last week. … Rookie LB Zeke Turner leads NFL with 14 special teams tackles. … Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has 20 TDs and one INT. Rodgers’ 61.7 completion percentage his lowest since 2015 (60.7). … RB Aaron Jones averaging 107.8 yards from scrimmage with six TDs over last five games. … WR Davante Adams has career-high 1,022 yards receiving, scoring at least 10 TDs for third straight season. Adams only player in NFL with 70-plus receptions and 10-plus receiving TDs each of last three seasons. … DL Kenny Clark has five sacks in last six games. … LB Blake Martinez tied for second in NFL with 97 tackles. … Fantasy tip: Jones had season-high 17 carries last week after taking over starting job in Week 6. But watch for injury status on Packers standout LT David Bakhtiari (knee) and LG Lane Taylor (quad).