By Drew Olson Special to Published Jan 04, 2010 at 12:12 AM

Mike McCarthy is not a moron.

Not this week, anyway.

Two months ago, a whole bunch of fans in Green Bay wondered if the coach of their beloved Packers could reach double digits on the Wonderlic test. The Packers lost to previously winless Tampa Bay. The offensive line was in shambles. The team looked like its spirit was crushed and chances for a winning record seemed bleak.

The only guy in the state dumber than the coach, most fans figured, was the general manager who hired him -- Ted Thompson.

How do you like them now?

After cruising to a 33-7 victory over Arizona on Sunday, the Packers (11-5) enter the playoffs -- and a rematch Sunday afternoon with the Cardinals -- with the confident swagger of a team on a mission.

Things couldn't have worked out much better than they did. Other than a mildly upsetting shoulder injury to superstar cornerback and defensive leader Charles Woodson, who is expected to be ready to go Sunday, the Packers accomplished everything on their checklist.

Of course, that doesn't guarantee they'll win next week.

The Cardinals, who clearly backed off the throttle once Minnesota demolished New York in the early game Sunday, have a talented roster and will do everything they can to avoid losing to Green Bay three times in the pre-, regular- and post-seasons.

Football coaches are paid to put their players in a position to succeed. McCarthy and his assistants, particularly Dom Capers, have done that and should be commended.

Now, it's up to the players.

Quarterback Rodgers, who moved the offense up and down the field for three quarters, narrowly missed breaking Lynn Dickey's franchise record for passing yards in a season. He looked cool and confident in the pocket again on Sunday, in part because the Cardinals didn't blitz much once most of their starters hit the bench.

Part of Rodgers' security may stem from the improved play of his offensive line. After allowing 41 sacks in their first nine games, the Packers gave up 10 in the following seven weeks. Their total of 51 led the league, but it could have been worse.

With weapons like Ryan Grant, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and upstarts Brandon Jackson and Jordy Nelson at his disposal, Rodgers should be able to limit turnovers and keep the Packers close no matter who they face.

Green Bay's pass defense, torched for 500-plus yards in a loss at Pittsburgh, remains vulnerable without veterans Al Harris and Aaron Kampman, but rookie linebacker Clay Matthews is creating pressure up front and Woodson, who scored his eighth touchdown as a Packer, is dominating the secondary.

The run defense, which ranked 26th in the NFL last season, ranked first this year.

Those facts, coupled with the number of Packers fans in the stands Sunday, may prompt Las Vegas oddsmakers to list the Packers as a favorite on Sunday.

If they get the kind of "punch ‘em in the mouth" effort exuded by Desmond Bishop, whose monstrous hit on Cardinals kick returner LaRod Stephens-Howling in the first quarter was a highlight of the game, they can look forward to the second round.

If they don't, fans may again question McCarthy's intelligence. But, they can't question the decision to be aggressive on Sunday.

Some fans may have taken issue with the fact that Rodgers and others were exposed to possible injury, but they came out unscathed and confident that they can perform at a high level next week.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt yanked most of his defensive starters in the first quarter, but lost Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a knee bruise and wide receiver Anquan Boldin to an ankle injury.

Although Arizona players seemed to say all the right things in the locker room after the game, there has to be a little concern about the team's rhythm going into Sunday.

"I just can't see taking anything good away from this football game," Fox studio analyst Howie Long said of the Cardinals. "You are going to see this team again next week.

"I understand you are going to be somewhat vanilla. You are going to have them traveling back there. But Green Bay is putting it on them right now. Psychologically, how do you bounce back from that, even if you are vanilla across the board?"

That's a question that the Cardinals will answer next week.

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.