The teams: The Green Bay Packers (0-1) vs. the Arizona Cardinals (1-0).
The time: 7 p.m. CDT Friday.
The place: Lambeau Field, Green Bay.
The TV coverage: WTMJ (Ch. 4) in Milwaukee and WKOW (Ch. 27) in Madison.
The announcers: Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon, with Jessie Garcia reporting from the sidelines.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 54-34 (5-2 postseason) in his sixth season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt is 36-34, (4-2 postseason) in his fifth season as the Cardinals’ coach and as an NFL head coach.
The injury report: Packers –S Anthony Levine (concussion), DE Lawrence Guy (post-concussion symptoms), S Brandon Underwood (knee), G Adrian Battles (Achilles’) and T Chris Campbell (knee) have been ruled out by McCarthy. OLB Clay Matthews (hamstring), DE Mike Neal (knee), WR Brett Swain (hamstring), CB Davon House (hamstring), RB James Starks (ankle), TE Spencer Havner (hamstring) and WR/KR Shaky Smithson (shoulder) are unlikely to play. TE Jermichael Finley (glute), CB Sam Shields (hip/back) and RB/KR Alex Green (quadriceps) are expected to play.
Cardinals – S Adrian Wilson (bicep), CB Michael Adams (knee), TE Stephen Spach (calf) and T D.J. Young (knee) are not expected to play.
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Finally, Finley: Packers fans have been waiting for their human mismatch, tight end Jermichael Finley, to return to the field. That was delayed last week when the big fella, in his words, “fell on my butt,” resulting in a bruise and soreness that kept him out of the preseason opener at Cleveland. Now Finley, who went down with what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury – followed by a wicked staph infection – in Week 5, will return to game action Friday night. The last time Finley faced the Cardinals, he was setting a franchise playoff record with 159 receiving yards. This time, he’s anxious to see action, but not too much action. “Hopefully, a series max. Two plays, three plays, no more than that,” Finley said. “Just to really to get on track with A-Rod (quarterback Aaron Rodgers).”
Tight battle: While injuries have thinned the group throughout practice, the Packers remain remarkably deep at tight end. We’re reaching the point where players should start separating. Behind Finley, the next four are Tom Crabtree, Andrew Quarless and rookies D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor, with Spencer Havner collecting a touchdown catch in the preseason opener before missing time in practice with a hamstring injury. Crabtree remains the group’s best blocker, so he’s likely safe, and Taylor has seen action on all the top special teams units, which means his odds of making the team are quite good, too. Williams is the most Finley-esque pass-catcher of the group and has had a very good camp, too. It’s possible the team could keep five TEs, which would mean Quarless or Havner would be the odd man out.
On guard: T.J. Lang has moved ahead of Derek Sherrod in the battle for the starting left guard spot and will get the start against the Cardinals, McCarthy said. It appears to be his job to lose. The Packers, who will see the guy who held that position for the past five years – Daryn Colledge – Friday night with his new team, lost 80 games of NFL starts when Colledge left as a free agent, and while Lang is entering his third NFL season, last year was essentially a lost year for him because of a wrist injury that lingered. Lang has looked like a different player in camp this year, and the Packers are hoping he keeps trending upward.
Going Green: One of the players the coaches and personnel guys are most anxious to see in game action is third-round pick Alex Green, the running back from Hawaii. With James Starks (knee) not expected to play, Green will start working at running back during the second quarter, McCarthy said. He’ll also be first up on kickoff returns, even though McCarthy liked what he saw from Randall Cobb in that role against the Browns. The most important thing Green can accomplish, however, would be effective blitz pickups whenever he’s in as a third-down back. That remains a role that’s wide open following the free-agent departure of Brandon Jackson.
Right-wing conspiracy: Projecting who’ll start at right outside linebacker this season is a nearly impossible task, and while everyone has their opinions, McCarthy claims that there will be more than one starter at the position – meaning, say, Frank Zombo will play on early downs when it’s likely to be a running play, and Erik Walden could play in obvious pass-rush situations, if the coaches feel he’s bringing better quarterback pressure. Zombo got the start last week in Cleveland and was with the No. 1 unit on Monday; Walden worked with the starters on Tuesday and Wednesday. With left-side starter Clay Matthews unlikely to play, both figure to start against the Cardinals and get extra work.
– Jason Wilde