Cardinals wide receivers John Brown (12) and Michael Floyd (15) each played in their only playoff game last year in Carolina.
No Cardinal has played in more postseason games than Dwight Freeney, and what the linebacker has learned over the years is that teams that have reached this point in the playoffs deserve to be at this point in the playoffs.
"The stakes are higher, but when are the stakes not high in this business," Freeney said Thursday, after the Cards finished their final practice prior to Saturday night's Divisional Round playoff game against the Packers. "If you look at it from the perspective, 'Do what we have always done.' We are in this position for a reason."
Thanks to last year's brief postseason journey when the Cardinals lost in the Wild Card round in Carolina, much of the roster (34
out of the 53 players) has appeared in at least one postseason game.
There is a clear understanding inside the locker room that the games – plural only if the Cards beat Green Bay – are going to be different now.
"I learned from last year, everybody plays much faster and harder," safety Tony Jefferson said. "You've got to have your stuff ready and straight, because it's coming, and it's coming fast.
"You can just feel it. I don't know if the football gods are sending it down, but you can just feel the whole energy. It's different than regular season. Everything is moving a lot faster. Things get a lot more chaotic because it's single-game elimination. Your season could be over off of one play, so everybody is really trying."
Quarterback Carson Palmer said it was "good that a lot of us have been there before," although coach Bruce Arians did note that it was up to him as coach to make sure Palmer in particular didn't get overly amped for the game.
"The anticipation for the game is a little higher because it has been building," Palmer said. "Obviously now we will be going on 13 days since our last game, so I think if anything has changed for this game, it is just the anticipation."
The Cardinals do have key players who are new to this – running back David Johnson for instance, or linebacker Markus Golden. Freeney said there is no single moment when a playoff veteran passes on advice.
"There is a lot being said throughout the week," said Freeney, who has played in 17 postseason games. "You would hope all those messages would resonate. From an individual perspective, I'll help them."
"But if I see them stray," Freeney added, motioning a headlock move, "this is what's going on."
CARDS TO MAKE SURE THEY DON'T GET JUMPY WITH RODGERS
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made an art form the ability to get the ball snapped when the opposing defense is trying to shuffle defensive personnel in and out, either getting an offsides or a 12-men penalty.
Rodgers threw a touchdown pass on such a "free play" against Washington last week, his third TD pass this season in that situation. The Packers drew 12 12-men penalties against the defense during the regular season.
"I'm glad I was sitting on my couch watching it and I wasn't on the field, because he was looking at the sideline," Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "You guys all saw it, he was looking at the sideline, staring, like 'Ha ha, I got you.' He gave you that look."
The Cards were caught once by Rodgers in the last meeting.
"We know he gets, I wouldn't say "cheap" plays that way, but you just have to have a whole set of plays for every situation they put you in, every personnel they have," defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. "They substitute really quick, and you get time so substitute, or they just don't substitute at all and you can't change. Guys just have to be ready and do extra conditioning to stay on the field."
CARDINALS BASICALLY INJURY FREE – AT LEAST ON ACTIVE ROSTER
The Cardinals didn't have much change in the injury report, meaning Arians will be able to have seven healthy scratches on his inactive list for the game. Arians admitted the list changed quickly once the two players suffering the most – linebacker Alex Okafor (toe) and defensive tackle Cory Redding (ankle) -- were put on season-ending injury lists and replaced with two healthy bodies.
Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (ankle), Golden (knee) and defensive tackle Josh Mauro (calf) were all limited, but all three are expected to play Saturday.
For the Packers, wide receiver Davante Adams (knee) did not practice, and 11 players were limited: Tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle), cornerback Quinten Rollins (quadriceps), defensive tackle Mike Daniels (hamstring), defensive end Datone Jones (neck), running back Eddie Lacy (ribs), guard T.J. Lang (calf), linebacker Mike Neal (hip), tight end Andrew Quarless (knee), tight end Richard Rodgers (hip), guard Josh Sitton (back) and cornerback Sam Shields (concussion).
Images from the final day of practice before the Cardinals host the Packers