Linebacker Dwight Freeney and the Cardinals dominated in the first matchup against Green Bay but few expect a similar outcome on Saturday.
When the Cardinals played the Packers in Week 16, the result was so lopsided it looked like one of those high school scrimmages between the varsity and JV squads.
In those types of games, the younger, smaller group has nary a prayer of winning, and that doesn't change no matter how many times they line up. The NFL is much different.
The Cardinals may have cruised their way to a 38-8 victory on Dec. 27, but neither they nor Green Bay has much faith in a redux in Saturday night's NFC Divisional Round rematch.
"I can't emphasize that enough, that we are not assuming the same thing is going to happen," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "It would be OK if it did, but we are not hanging our hat on that we are going to go out and do the same things that we did."
The NFL, famous for its parity, has innumerable examples of teams rebounding from a blowout loss in the next faceoff. The situation changes, the game-plans are altered and there is the pride factor.
"When you lose like that, it's almost like you've got a vendetta for that next game," linebacker Kevin Minter said.
For a recent example of a team putting up a much better fight the second time around, look at last weekend.
"You cannot base anything off of a game that you played previously against a team," Packers linebacker Julius Peppers said. "I think, obviously weather conditions had something to do with the Minnesota-Seattle game, but you look at them – 38-7 two weeks ago, three weeks ago, and 10-9 this week. Like I said, each game is going to be different and there are going to be points in that game where things happen to (make it) a different outcome."
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians isn't convinced the first matchup between his team and the Packers was total domination. He said if a few 50-50 plays ended up in Green Bay's favor, the final score wouldn't have looked like it did.
"The ball has to bounce your way," Arians said. "I don't really think we dominated them in any form or fashion, other than we got a couple of good fumbles and picked them up and scored with them. They're too good, and we didn't get their best shot because they didn't have their best players."
Injuries certainly play a big role. The Packers were without left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle) in the first matchup and then lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga early in the contest. The Cardinals' defense feasted, registering nine sacks, forcing four turnovers and scoring a pair of touchdowns – becoming the first NFL team to accumulate nine sacks and two fumble-recovery touchdowns in a game since sacks became an official statistic in 1963.
Bulaga will be available on Saturday while Bakhtiari's status is unknown, and on the other side, the Cardinals will be without starting linebacker Alex Okafor (toe).
Those changes could make a difference, although if the Cardinals play as well as they did the first time, it won't affect the outcome. It wasn't only the defense that dominated, as the offense rolled up 24 points one minute into the third quarter before coasting down the stretch.
The Packers are banking on a completely different flow despite the similar personnel on both sides.
"All these games have different personalities," Peppers said.
"I think it's the reality of the National Football League, and parity has been evident for at least the two decades that I've been in this league," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think that speaks a lot to it. Obviously, it was a one-sided game when we were out there a few weeks ago, so we're focused on the things that we obviously didn't do a very good job in and we've had a chance to apply that, not only to this game, but to the last couple games we've played in."
Green Bay fell behind Washington 11-0 in their Wild Card game before its offense found a groove which had been missing for much of the season's second half. The running game produced behind both Eddie Lacy and James Starks, and a passing attack which has uncharacteristically struggled even with Aaron Rodgers at the helm also clicked.
"When we were facing them during that time, I think they were trying to find their identity or find something that worked," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "They were kind of in flux offensively. Since we've played them, it seems like those guys found it. They look like a completely different team."
The Packers were rejuvenated by the victory, and between that and their playoff experience, a confidence has blossomed. The Cardinals looked like world-beaters in the first matchup, but Green Bay isn't just setting its sights on making this game more competitive, but completely flipping the script.
"We're no underdog going to Arizona," McCarthy told reporters on Monday. "I don't care what people think or how we're picked or things like that. We're going out there to win, and we expect to win."
Images from the week of Divisional playoff practice