The teams: The Green Bay Packers (5-3) vs. the Arizona Cardinals (4-4).
The time: Noon CST Sunday.
The place: Lambeau Field, Green Bay.
The TV coverage: FOX – WITI (Ch. 6 in Milwaukee), WMTV (Ch. 47 in Madison) and WLUK (Ch. 11 in Green Bay).
The announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, with Pam Oliver reporting from the sidelines.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 73-39 (including 5-3 in the postseason) in his seventh season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt is 48-46 (including 4-2 in the postseason) in his fifth year as the Cardinals’ coach and as an NFL head coach.
The series: The Packers lead the all-time regular-season series 43-22-4. The Packers are 6-0 against the Cardinals at Lambeau Field and have won six of the last eight meetings overall, including the playoffs.
The rankings: The Packers’ 21st-ranked offense is No. 26 in rushing and No. 12 in passing. Their 13th-ranked defense is No. 12 against the run and No. 19 against the pass. The Cardinals’ 31st-ranked offense is No. 31 in rushing and No. 24 in passing. Their sixth-ranked defense is No. 21 against the run and No. 4 against the pass.
The line: The Packers are favored by 10 points.
The injury report:
Out – WR Greg Jennings (groin/abdomen), S Charles Woodson (collarbone). FB John Kuhn (hamstring), LB Nick Perry (knee, wrist), CB Sam Shields (ankle), DE Jerel Worthy (concussion).
Questionable – WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring), S Jerron McMillian (back).
Probable – DE Mike Neal (ankle), TE Jermichael Finley (shoulder), LG T.J. Lang (elbow/wrist), DT B.J. Raji (ankle), WR Donald Driver (neck/thumb), QB Aaron Rodgers (calf).
Out – G Adam Snyder (quadriceps), QB Kevin Kolb (ribs).
Questionable – CB Greg Toler (hamstring), FS Kerry Rhodes (back), TE Todd Heap (knee).
Probable – LS Mike Leach (back), T D’Anthony Batiste (toe), DT Darnell Dockett (hamstring), TE Jim Dray (knee), CB Jamell Fleming (back), FB Anthony Sherman (knee).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Energy drink: After watching his players – at least some of them, since they openly admitted it afterward – sleepwalk through last week’s victory over Jacksonville, McCarthy was hell-bent on making sure there were no motivational issues this week. So while raising the intensity level in practice was part of his emphasis during the week, McCarthy also dangled a carrot in front of his guys: Win, and your bye week starts Monday; lose, and you’re here ‘til Wednesday – the longest McCarthy could keep his guys around according to CBA rules.
Whether or not the players needed additional motivation is hard to say, but McCarthy certainly believed that the ploy and constant emphasis worked.
“I think the energy has been outstanding. I think they really cranked it up with the sense of urgency to win this football game,” McCarthy said after the final practice of the week, on Friday. “(Practice) hasn’t been as clean as I’d like. There’s been a segment in all three practices that was not quite where it needs to be. But for the most part, it’s been a good week.”
Historically, McCarthy’s teams have gone into the bye with victories; the two exceptions were in his first season of 2006, when the Packers lost at home to St. Louis, and in 2009, when they lost at Minnesota. Apparently in the past, McCarthy hadn’t been as straightforward with his players about scheduling, keeping them guessing, and he wanted to take a different approach, despite winning more than he lost.
“There’s things that happen Monday through Saturday that may not be what you want them to be but Sunday worked out great. Is that coincidence, or is that because the bye was hanging over? Those are the types of things I’m not going to take chances on,” McCarthy said. “I know what a good week of preparation looks like, and that’s my challenge every week to get it out of the football team, regardless of the result in the game.”