GLENDALE, AZ — Well, isn't this quite the treat compared to the usual muck and yuck we're stuck watching on Thursday Night Football?
Instead, Thursday's game between the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers will be the first time since the 1970 merger that two teams with 13+ combined wins will meet in week 8 or earlier. It's also the highest combined win percentage (.929) for a Thursday game in October or later in the Super Bowl era. Prediction: Cardinals 31, Packers 24
All that to say, we should be in for a heck of a football game. It's just too bad that we won't see these two teams at full strength.
While the Cardinals won't have J.J. Watt and Rodney Hudson, and potentially a few others that are considered to be game-time decisions, the Packers have been hit hard by COVID and will have to adapt on a short week.
The Cardinals know a thing or two about that.
Missing Davante Adams is massive.
Allen Lazard out as well certainly doesn't help matters, but I could see Aaron Rodgers somehow turning this from a negative into a positive. Any perceived slight or dismissal, Rodgers enters 'Godgers' mode, and no Cardinals fan wants to see that.
What I imagine we'll see a lot of from the Packers offense is Aaron Jones.
While the Cardinals defense has allowed the fewest points per game in the NFL, that unit's biggest weakness has been stopping the run. They give up five yards per carry, the second-worst in the league.
A successful night on the ground helps mitigate two things for the Packers:
- A Cardinals pass-rush that is sacking the quarterback nearly three times per game (5th-most) and has forced 11 fumbles through 7 games (two more than the next most)
- Keep Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense off the field
The second one should be the primary goal for any team the Cardinals face, but especially the Packers this week. I think the biggest loss of all won't be Adams, but Green Bay defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Making the calls to try and slow down this high-flying Cardinals offense will be split between defensive backs coach Jerry Gray and inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. Good luck.
The Cardinals are scoring more than 32 points per game (4th-best), they have found a nice rhythm in the run game recently, and they continue to spread the football around to a myriad of weapons.
I found this interesting as it relates to the growth of the Cardinals offense from last year to this year:
In 2020, DeAndre Hopkins topped the 100-yard receiving mark seven times. The Cardinals were 6-1 when he went over 100 yards and 2-7 when he went under.
This season though, Hopkins hasn't reached 100 yards in a single game. In fact, he's only had 65 yards or more in just three games. He does have seven touchdowns, but most importantly, the Cardinals have seven wins.
All that to say if the Cardinals can keep Kyler Murray upright and healthy, there's not really a weak link in the offense.
Back to this Thursday Night Football game that will likely play a role in NFC playoff seeding tiebreakers. While the Cardinals win in Cleveland amidst a COVID outbreak showed us not to overlook a shorthanded team, I don't think the Packers are derailing the Cardinals' unbeaten season this week.