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Cardinals aim for another sack attack against Pack

Linebacker Kenny Demens, center, and end Frostee Rucker enjoy one of Arizona’s eight sacks of Aaron Rodgers on Dec. 27.

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Linebacker Kenny Demens, center, and end Frostee Rucker enjoy one of Arizona’s eight sacks of Aaron Rodgers on Dec. 27.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Three weeks ago, the Cardinals beat the Packers by 30 points. No one should expect that kind of blowout when the teams meet tonight in the NFC divisional playoffs.

"I think these guys definitely come back here with a bad taste in their mouth," Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson said, "so I think it will definitely be a much better game."

Oddsmakers are picking the Cardinals, the NFC's No. 2 seed, by seven points, though Packers coach Mike McCarthy wouldn't call his team the underdog.

"We're no underdog going to Arizona," he said after his team's 35-18 wild-card victory at Washington. "I don't care what people think or how we're picked or things like that. We're going out there to win, and expect to win."

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers acknowledged the underdog status but said "the pressure's all going to be on" Arizona.

"They're coming off a tough loss at home against Seattle. Before that, they blew us out," Rodgers said. "They're the Super Bowl favorites, and obviously the favorite team (tonight) so we've just got to go out, be loose, let it all hang out, because the pressure's all on that side."

Arizona safety Rashad Johnson said there's pressure on both sides.

"We've all got to play the game," he said. "I think there's a little bit of pressure on everyone to go out and want to play well. If you don't feel any butterflies and have some type of pressure, you're in the wrong business."

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians discounted the whole concept of pressure.

"There is no pressure," he said. "Pressure is something when you're not prepared for something. We have high expectations."

The Dec. 27 victory over the Packers capped a nine-game winning streak for Arizona. A week later, the Cardinals ended their regular season with a 36-6 drubbing at the hands of Seattle, a loss they dismiss as an aberration.

The Packers still had a chance at the NFC North title, despite the loss in the desert, but ended the regular season by losing at home to Minnesota, so Green Bay settled for a wild-card berth.

Then came Sunday in Washington, when Rodgers and the rest of the Packers played better than they had most of the season.

The Cardinals sacked Rodgers eight times in their meeting on Dec. 27, but Green Bay was without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari and lost starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga, both because of ankle problems. Both are expected to play tonight. The Packers also should have cornerback Sam Shields, who has been out while undergoing the concussion protocol.

Arizona is without one of its best pass rushers, outside linebacker Alex Okafor, and the exact reason is a mystery. An irritated Arians would say only that Okafor injured a toe during the team's weekend off.

Packers (11-6) at Cardinals (13-3), 8:15

TV/radio: Ch, 8, 1040-AM

Line/OU: Cardinals by 7; 49

Arizona beat Green Bay 51-45 in a 2009 wild-card game, the highest-scoring playoff game ever. This is the league's second-oldest series, dating to 1921, trailing only Bears-Cards. Those are the only three teams remaining from the 1922 season, when the American Professional Football Association changed its name to the NFL Packers LB Clay Matthews has 10 career playoff sacks, Cardinals DE Dwight Freeney nine. Green Bay LB Julius Peppers leads active NFL players with 136 career sacks. The Cardinals never had a playoff bye before this season. Arizona's Carson Palmer is the only one of the eight starting quarterbacks on remaining teams not to have a playoff victory. He set franchise records for yards passing (4,671) and TD passes (35) this season and Arizona set franchise records for yards (6,533), points (489) and TDs (58). Larry Fitzgerald's 109 catches broke the franchise mark he set in 2005.

Cardinals aim for another sack attack against Pack 01/15/16 [Last modified: Friday, January 15, 2016 10:22pm]
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