Matchup: Packers Run Offense vs. Cardinals Run Defense

How does the Green Bay Packers' run offense compare to the Cardinals' run defense?

NFL.com Rank
Packers Run Offense 14
Cardinals Run Defense 17
Football Outsiders Rank
Packers Run Offense 2
Cardinals Run Defense 14

I've been using the official NFL rankings (based on yardage) most of this season, but the rankings from Football Outsiders are more interesting.

Fun Fact: Just as QB Aaron Rodgers has benefited over the past 7 weeks from the healthy return of veteran tackles LT Chad Clifton and RT Mark Tauscher, RB Ryan Grant has done so too. Over the last 7 games, since the Packers' offensive line was finally together, Grant has run for 553 yards (4.85 yards/carry) and scored 7 TDs. 

The complete analysis is after the jump.

I was listening to the Aaron Schatz on the BS report and one of the many great points he made was that the Cardinals aren't especially good in any one area. And again that appears to be the case as they rank just above average in run defense.

The Cardinals' run defense isn't all that different whether you look at the NFL or Football Outsiders rankings. Actually the Football Outsiders rankings are probably too favorable and gave them a bump up after holding the No. 2 run offense (the Packers) to only 109 yards on 34 carries (3.2 yards/carry) last week. RB Ryan Grant only had 11 carries, so most of those 34 came after the backups (including the entire Packers' O-line) took over and they were just trying to run the clock out. Overall the Cardinals allowed 4.5 yards/carry this season which is 5th worst in the NFL, and they've allowed 6 different running backs to go over 100 yards in a game against them. Grant had 11 carries for 51 yards (4.6 yards/carry) with 1 TD in limited action against the Cardinals' starting defense, which is in line with the Cardinals' season average.

Is Grant really the No. 2 back (according to Football Outsiders) in the league this season? Well they say so and his basic stats are very good (1253 yards, 4.4/carry, and 11 TDs). But FO's stats love him for two other reasons: no recorded fumbles, and he's played against some pretty tough run defenses. He didn't have big games against the Vikings or the Ravens, but he ran well against the 49ers and scored 3 TDs in week 15 and 16 vs. two good run defenses (Steelers and Seahawks). He's also gotten better over the last 7 weeks, as mentioned above the jump, and only had two bad games: inexplicably against the Lions on Thanksgiving and understandably against the Ravens' No. 4 best run defense. 

What does it all mean? The Packers can run against the Cardinals. Last Sunday, the Cardinals didn't show the Packers anything on offense, or any different looks on defense, but the Packers' starting offensive line did a good job at controlling the line of scrimmage and giving Grant room to run early in the game against the Cardinals' starting defensive line. Also, the Cardinals could be without their big DE Calais Campbell who broke his thumb last week and had surgery on Monday. Losing him would be the Packers' equivalent of losing DE Cullen Jenkins. The Cardinals will be hard pressed to hold Grant to under 4.5 yards/carry or without a TD run, and the only thing holding him back might be the game plan if Mike McCarthy decides to go pass heavy.

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