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2010 NFC Wild Card Lines: Packers Cardinals Free Predictions

NFL Wildcard Playoff Betting – Packers vs Cardinals Preview & Pick

The last playoff game of the week completes the Week 17-rematch trifecta. Few teams finished 2009 hotter than the Green Bay Packers, who won seven of their final eight games. After they kept their foot on the gas in an excessive beating of Arizona last week, however, did they poke a sleeping bear?

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When the playoffs start Sunday, we’ll see what New England has left. Will it surprise us or go out with a whimper?

Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals

Sunday, January 10, 4:30 p.m. ET
Sportsbook favorite: Cardinals -1

If you checked the spread for this game on Monday, you’ll remember that it opened at 2.5 points. As more and more bettors pile on the Packers, that number keeps shrinking. It’s hard to blame anyone who feels confident in Green Bay right now.

Thanks to general manager Ted Thompson’s blend of clever drafting and smart signings, the Pack’s defense is as good as any now. The No. 2 overall unit in the NFL, it was tops against the run and fifth against the pass. Green Bay’s pass rush vastly improved, adding 10 sacks to its 2008 total. That bodes well against a statuesque Kurt Warner who notoriously holds onto the ball too long. Corner Charles Woodson is no spring chicken but he enjoyed the best season of his career and may take home Defensive Player of the Year honors. He’ll cover Larry Fitzgerald and, since Anquan Boldin (ankle) may not play, may get some help for double teams.

All that and we haven’t even mentioned Green Bay’s true engine – Aaron Rodgers. The first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards in his first two seasons as a starter, Rodgers has a chance to be the next decade’s biggest star. His 103.3 passer rating was higher than any of Brett Favre’s ratings in 16 seasons as a Packer. With a strong, accurate arm and great mobility – he led all NFC quarterbacks in rushing yards this season – he’s a nightmare for Arizona’s 23rd-ranked pass defense.

The Cardinals counter with a passing attack that’s almost as good, even without Boldin (they went 5-1 without him this year). Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald showed last postseason that they’re almost unstoppable when they’re “on.” The Pack stifled many good passing attacks this year but Brett Favre’s success against them suggests that they’re still beatable against pocket passers with accurate arms. Many pundits want to remind us of last year’s dream Cardinals run and bill this matchup as a close game; I just don’t see it. The Packers have a better passing attack, better running game, better pass defense, better run defense.

They’re better everywhere. Their 5-3 road record even beats Arizona’s 4-4 home record. Did I mention that Cardinals Pro-Bowl corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is also hobbled with a bruised kneecap?

The Cards certainly have a fighting chance; they’ll be angry after the Pack walloped them last week. They also had the league’s sixth-best pass rush and the key to beating Green Bay all season is penetrating its offensive line and pounding Rodgers. The problem: pass protection isn’t even a problem for Green Bay anymore.

Rodgers took a ridiculous 37 sacks in the first eight games of the season; he took 13 in the final eight.

In my mind, this is the easiest pick of the week. Green Bay is better than Arizona everywhere. Pick the Pack and hope Rodgers doesn’t get playoff jitters.

He doesn’t seem like the type.

Gambling Trends:

Green Bay is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
Green Bay is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games
Green Bay is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games when playing Arizona
Green Bay is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Arizona’s last 7 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Arizona’s last 5 games when playing Green Bay
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Arizona’s last 8 games at home
Arizona is 9-4 SU in its last 13 games

Pick: Packers +1

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Shea Matthews lives and breathes sports. He made the transition from athlete to sports journalist at a young age, writing in TV & national newspapers. He now applies his knowledge to sports betting and handicapping every day, and shares his winning picks with the world.

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