A glance at the top storylines for the Cardinals-Packers game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium:
**Say hello to a bye
The Cardinals have their NFC West title, but they have not clinched a first-round bye. That would come by knocking off the Packers, the team that still has a chance to catch them for that No. 2 spot (Yes, the Cards have not yet been eliminated from being the No. 1 seed, if they win out and the Panthers lose their final two.) The Packers, meanwhile, have a chance to clinch their division themselves, so a win over the Cardinals would help them in multiple ways. That bye is crucial – a free pass to the divisional round, and the guarantee of a home game that round. It's not to be considered lightly.
Five letters for Cardinal-land: A-A-R-O-N
He isn't having as good a season as the last couple, but Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is still incredible. Yes, the Packers are running the ball a bit better and yes, they've forced some turnovers on defense, but Rodgers is what makes Green Bay go. He's thrown only six interceptions all season, and it's been drops that have hurt him (although Rodgers definitely hasn't been on target as much as he's been in the past.) It's not exactly the matchup you love in the first game post-Tyrann Mathieu, but the Cards must find a way to at least slow A-Rod.
On the ground, the story of David
There was the intent all along for the Cardinals to be better rushing the ball this season. But to be ranked sixth in the league as we get to the end of the season, well, that's unexpected. Especially with the injuries the backfield has suffered. But David Johnson has been tremendous. The Eagles are not a good defensive team, but getting 187 yards (and three touchdowns) is impressive no matter who the opponent. No one could've predicted it before the season, but a strong case can be made that the Cardinals have an edge at back with Johnson over the Packers and Eddie Lacy.
Badger-less, and the ghost of Money Mike
The last time the Cardinals played the Packers at University of Phoenix Stadium, a small defensive back named Michael Adams – "Money Mike" to his teammates – won the playoff game by forcing a Rodgers fumble that was returned by Karlos Dansby for a touchdown. (Yes, Adams should've been flagged. Moot now.) The Cardinals won't have their current small (and much better) defensive back because Tyrann Mathieu is hurt. How the Cards respond to Mathieu's absence is not only a storyline this week but through the rest of the season, however long it goes.
Green without envy?
By now, the narrative of Green Bay fans showing up en masse to Sunday's game has grown to the point where you'd half-expect to not see any Cardinals fans. That's foolish, of course – the crowd will still be a majority of Cardinals fans. But you'd rather not see 35 or 40 percent of the fans in the building rooting for the visiting team. It doesn't matter now. Now, the Cardinals are prepping with a silent count to be ready for a noisier-than-usual time on offense while at home. The arguments whether opposing fans should have so many seats have been going on for years and they likely will continue. The Cards can make sure it doesn't matter. They are still in the comfort of their own stadium, in a place they know well. It can translate, regardless of the fan ratio.