Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Cardinals


When Sunday's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals kicks off, the temperature at Sun Devil Stadium is supposed to be 102 degrees or more.

People are probably thinking that puts the Packers at a disadvantage since they're coming from Green Bay, the land known for the Frozen Tundra.

But Packers will be well prepared for the heat. All week long the coaches and the training staff will have talked to players about staying hydrated, and these days players know the steps to take in order to be safe in the heat.

Back in 2000, the last time we were in Arizona for a regular season game, the heat wasn't a factor at all. We went in there, took care of business and beat the Cardinals 29-3.

The funny thing about that game is that a few weeks before the Philadelphia Eagles had gone to Dallas and beat the Cowboys 41-14. The Eagles were saying that they prepared for the heat by drinking pickle juice.

Well, we didn't drink any pickle juice getting ready to play Arizona. We stuck to water and Gatorade and did just fine. I'm sure it will be the same way on Sunday.

The key match-up on defense this weekend will be between Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie and Cardinals rookie wide receiver -- and fellow Florida State alumnus -- Anquan Boldin.

Boldin torched the Lions for a rookie record (10 catches for 217 yards) and will be looking to do the same against the Packers secondary.

McKenzie especially has to shut down Boldin on third down. If he keeps the Cardinals offense from converting, the Packers have a good chance of winning the game.

Another key match-up is Packers tight end Bubba Franks against Super Bowl MVP safety Dexter Jackson. If Franks can occupy Jackson in the red zone, that will open up running back Ahman Green on outside runs and short 'Texas' routes in the middle of the field.

The Cardinals have Jeff Blake at quarterback and he's a proven veteran. Fans might remember that he's the last Pro Bowl quarterback out of Cincinnati. He's proven himself capable of putting up big numbers, but he might not be completely healthy this week.

He's been a little beat up this season, so if he can't finish the game, Josh McCown will come in and replace him. If that happens, expect the Packers to blitz and give a lot of different looks on defense to try and confuse him.

The Packers have a lot of speed on defense -- I think they're one of the fastest defenses in the league -- so they should have no problem stopping running back Emmitt Smith and keeping Arizona's big offensive line from controlling the game with a running attack.

Look for Arizona to use some play-action and to slide the line toward defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila while they take their chances downfield. Those situations are where safety Darren Sharper is at his best. I expect that he'll key in on their quarterback and come away with an interception.

Offensively the Packers have to do exactly what they did last weekend and establish the run. Green has to fall into the category of Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes and Ricky Williams -- guys who average 34 touches a game. He has to be a workhorse.

If Green gets over 100 yards, the Packers are in good shape. Plus, after they establish the run with Green it's going to open up wide receiver Robert Ferguson on play-action.

Ferguson proved last week that he's an ironman, playing hurt against the Lions. He's still dinged up, but I'm sure he'll be out there this weekend.

The Packers will get an additional boost if Donald Driver can play. If he can't, I like Javon Walker -- another FSU alumnus, and first-round draft pick -- stepping up in his place.

The Packers' receivers will prove lethal for the Cardinals who will have a hard time defending them.

To get the win, the Packers must attack but make sure they limit their turnovers. They have to be able to control the clock.

In the heat, turnovers kill you because the defense doesn't get time to rest. The Packers must be in the positive in terms of takeaways.

The good thing about the heat however is that it's going to give kicker Ryan Longwell and punter Josh Bidwell more distance and hangtime on their kicks.

Bidwell could end up being the player of the game. If the Packers have to punt, he'll put it out there high and deep and keep field position in the Packers' favor.

In the return game, I'm hoping Antonio Chatman continues to improve. He could develop into another weapon for Green Bay.

One thing I can promise you is that the heat will have no effect on the Packers' quarterback.

The heat does not bother Brett Favre. I remember back in 1989, Southern Mississippi came down to Jacksonville, Fla., and beat a Florida State team that was ranked No. 1 at the time. It was something like 107 degrees that day, and Brett had a career day against us.

Southern Miss was wearing black that day and FSU was in white. That just goes to show you that wearing light colored uniforms in the heat doesn't do anything for you.

Playing in the heat is tough, but I think the Packers are way too focused to let a game like this slip away.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com. Monday, Packers fans will be able to submit questions to LeRoy for his Tuesday column.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*

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