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Cardinals rugged pre-bye foe

Posted Nov 1, 2012

When Mike McCarthy made the following comment on Wednesday – “I think we’ve made the mistake of maybe looking forward to the bye week in the past. We’re not going to make that mistake this week.” – the media immediately wanted to know exactly when in the past that mistake was made.

I thought to myself: How is he going to avoid telling us it was last week?

That’s my opinion. I think the Green Bay Packers might’ve been suffering from a case of looking ahead to the bye week, when they struggled to put away a one-win Jaguars team that was missing its star running back and both starting cornerbacks.

The Packers are a battle-fatigued team. It’s a team that desperately needs a rest, which it will get next week. First, however, it has one more mile to go, and the final mile of their journey to the bye week might be as physically demanding a test as this team has faced since its opener against the 49ers.

Don’t be fooled by the Arizona Cardinals’ four-game losing streak. Don’t be lulled to sleep by their No. 31 ranking on offense, or by the egg they laid on Monday night against the 49ers. The Cardinals are the worst kind of team to play right before a bye, especially for a banged-up team needing a rest. The Cardinals are the kind of team that knocks you around.

Larry Fitzgerald might be the face of that franchise, but he’s not its calling card. Defense is the Cardinals’ signature, and players such as Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson are the faces of that defense.

The visitors from the desert own the league’s No. 6 overall defense and No. 4 pass defense. It is their No. 1 ranking in sacks per pass play, however, that really distinguishes them. Out of their 3-4, the Cardinals send a lot of young speed at the quarterback.

Should the Packers find a way to get to 6-3 on Sunday, it surely would be a bye week to celebrate. Arizona is not a team to take lightly, because it hits hard.

Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Cardinals.

1. Protect Aaron RodgersAgainst a defense tied for the sacks lead (26), victory on Sunday hinges on the Packers’ ability to protect its quarterback.

2. Match their desperation—At 4-4, the Cardinals are nearing the edge of the playoffs cliff. Call it a promise or a warning, but Daryn Colledge guaranteed the Cardinals would be all in for this one.

3. Avoid Patrick Peterson—Try William Gay. It worked in Super Bowl XLV.

4. Run the ball—The Cardinals are 21st against the run. Run defense is not their strength, and an effective running game is always the best way to protect the quarterback.

5. Force turnovers—Quarterback John Skelton is struggling.

6. Focus on Fitzgerald—He’s still their star. He’s the guy that can beat you on offense.

7. Stay away from the heaters—The Cardinals won’t.

8. Beware of tricks—Ken Whisenhunt likes to use Peterson in creative ways on offense.

9. Catch the ball—Drops are a problem that must go away.

10. Smell the bye—And use it as motivation. It won’t smell good coming off a loss.

Additional coverage - Nov. 1

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