Who should you keep an eye on in Red and Black this Sunday?
The Arizona Cardinals have a pretty faceless offense (aside from receiver Larry Fitzgerald), and a defense that has quietly become a very strong unit over the past few years. If you're wondering which Cardinals to keep an eye on this week, read on below.
Peterson is a good, young talent, who has expanded his game from a raw corner with ball skills and return ability into a complete cornerback. He'll likely be matched up on the top Packers receiver on the outside, in an effort to keep the passing game in check. Whether Jordy Nelson or James Jones is out there, they'll need to deal with Peterson and find ways to get open. Peterson also is the Cardinals' primary punt returner, an area where he gets to show off his excellent speed and athleticism.
OLB O'Brien Schofield
Wait, I'm singling out a former Wisconsin Badger as a player to watch? Surprise, surprise. Beyond being a fellow Wisconsin alumnus, Schofield is gradually working his way into being a strong contributor to the Cardinals' pass rush this season, as he has started all eight games for Arizona with four sacks. He likely will see a lot of Bryan Bulaga this week, and should be called on regularly to try to put Aaron Rodgers on the turf. (Oh, and pay no mind to that certain writer in the corner who has an unhealthy obsession with OB. He's harmless, I swear.)
If you're asking yourself "how is Holliday still in the NFL?", I had the same reaction when I saw him on the Cardinals' depth chart. The former Packer defensive end is now in his 15th NFL season, and his second as a reserve for Arizona. I have nothing but positive memories of Holliday in a Packers uniform, and I'm happy to see that he has had a long and successful NFL career. I'll be curious to see if he has any extra motivation to play well for a Lambeau Field crowd that supported him in his first five seasons.
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling
The Arizona running game has been bad. Like 31st in the league in yardage bad. They're averaging 3.5 yards per carry, less than even Green Bay. Football Outsiders has their running game ranked 31st as well, but there is one positive: they're in the top ten in yards per attempt when running outside both the left and right ends of the line. However, they average less than three YPC between the tackles. Stephens-Howling will most likely get the brunt of the carries on Sunday, and whether or not he can bounce runs to the outside may determine if that running game has any success whatsoever on Sunday.
I wanted to put the entire Cardinals' offensive line here, but Batiste gets the individual nod because he will be seeing a heavy dose of Clay Matthews this week. That must be a scary thought for the left tackle on an offensive line that has struggled mightily this season. Football Outsiders ranks the Cardinals' line as the worst in the NFL in both the running and passing games; they "lead" the league with a 31% run stuff rate and an 11% adjusted sack rate. If the Cardinals want to have any success moving the football, it will have to start by containing Clay Matthews, and unfortunately for Batiste, that will be a difficult task.