Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2021 Week 8

It's Green Bay's only appearance on Thursday Night Football this season. Get yourself ready for the game with these six things. 

The 6-1 Green Bay Packers will face off against the 7-0 Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football. It’s the first prime-time matchup between the two NFC teams. Here are six things to keep an eye out for heading into the game: 

1. No Parting this Red Sea

The Arizona Cardinals are first in the NFL in points against this season, allowing an average of only 16.3 points per game. The team is first in the NFL at stopping third and fourth downs, allowing only a 28.8% success rate on third downs and a 25% success rate on fourth down conversions. 

There’s a wealth of talent along the defensive front, with Markus Golden already posting six sacks this season, and Chandler Jones not far behind with five. Jones was just activated off the COVID-19/Reserve List this week, so it’s likely he’ll play Thursday night. The Cardinals also made a splash this offseason adding defensive end J.J. Watt to the squad, and while he’s only posted one sack so far, he’s second on the team in quarterback hits with 10. 

In the secondary, the Cardinals have talented cornerback Byron Murphy, who already has three interceptions on the season, one of which he returned for a touchdown. This game could come down to which defense wins the turnover battle. The Cardinals defense has forced 14 turnovers so far this season, while Green Bay’s defense has forced 11. 

2. A Coordinated Effort

The Packers defense will be without coordinator Joe Barry for Thursday’s matchup against Arizona. In his place, passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray will be calling the plays for the defense. Gray has some experience in that area which made him the team’s most likely candidate when the news about Barry was initially announced, though LaFleur made things official on Tuesday afternoon. 

Gray was a defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills from 2001-2005 and again with the Tennessee Titans from 2011-2013. He’s been a coach in the NFL since 1997, and played in the league as a cornerback from 1985-1993. 

The defense could also get some reinforcements back in the lineup this week, with Preston Smith and Kevin King both limited in practice. Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, and Rasul Douglas were the defense’s other additions to the injury report, but all are expected to play Thursday. 

3. Reaching at Receiver

Just like the defense will be without Barry, the offense will be without its top two wide receivers in Davante Adams (744 yards, 52 receptions, 3 TD) and Allen Lazard (184 yards, 15 receptions, 2 TD). While Cobb’s numbers are close to Lazard’s (179 yards, 14 receptions, 2 TD) the rest of the receiving core has combined for 123 yards and one touchdown. 

That group includes Marquez Valdes-Scantling who the Packers are hoping to get back in time for Thursday, Amari Rodgers, and Malik Taylor. Equanimeous St. Brown doesn’t count towards the unit’s statistics as his one touch of the season came on a run play. It’s a young position group (with Cobb’s numbers included) that’s accounted for 42 targets and only 25 receptions through seven weeks. 

The Packers offense will need to lean on its other position groups, with running back Aaron Jones the frontrunner for a productive Thursday. He’s already second on the team in receptions by a significant margin with 26, and he leads the team in receiving touchdowns this season with four. The offense also got tight end Robert Tonyan involved last Sunday against Washington, having his most productive game of the season with four receptions for 63 yards and a score. Players like AJ Dillon and Marcedes Lewis will round out an offense that has plenty to make up for without its All-Pro wide receiver. 

4. Flying High on Offense

On the opposite sideline, the Arizona Cardinals boast one of the league’s most explosive offenses, currently ranked fourth in the league in points for and averaging 32.1 points per game. The Cardinals have posted 30-plus points in six of seven games this season, with the one outlier coming in a 17-10 victory Week 5 against the division rival San Francisco 49ers. 

Through seven weeks, quarterback Kyler Murray already has 17 touchdowns. His previous season high was 26 in 2020. That’s a number he should far-exceed this season. He’s only thrown five picks this year, but he’s fumbled a whopping six times, with four of those fumbles coming in one game. While Murray always poses a threat as a mobile quarterback who can scramble, and he’s already got three rushing touchdowns on the season, he’s never rushed for more than 39 yards in a game all season. For context, Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke rushed for 95 yards himself against the Packers last week. 

This is a Cardinals offense that likes to spread the ball around, with five players already having 30 or more targets. Receivers DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and AJ Green all have over 300 receiving yards and three-plus touchdowns on the season, with Hopkins leading the charge with seven touchdowns. It’s worth monitoring that Hopkins has yet to practice this week with a hamstring injury, but he’s also yet to miss a game all season. 

The running back tandem of James Conner and Chase Edmonds also poses a dynamic threat. While neither running back has yet to eclipse 400 rushing yards on the season, Edmonds is targeted frequently in the passing game and Conner already has six touchdowns on the ground. 

5. Elite in the Era 

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Packers and Cardinals’ combined 13-1 record (.929) is the best combined win percentage for a Thursday game in October or later in the Super Bowl era. That doesn’t mean much historically beyond that you’ll want to get your popcorn ready, as matchups like this don’t come along too often. Additionally, this game could have significant playoff implications as far as tiebreakers are concerned in the NFC. 

Per the dope sheet, this is the fourth time the Packers and their opponent have entered a game on win streaks of six-plus games, with one happening as recently as 2015 when Green Bay faced off against the 7-0 Broncos. (The other two games were in 1942 and 1929.) The Packers lost that game 10-29 to Denver. 

6. State Farm Stadium 

Yeah, this one’s more for fun than anything else. The Packers will travel to Arizona for the first time since the 2015 season, when Green Bay played the Cardinals in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. At that time, it was University of Phoenix Stadium. Now, Aaron Rodgers will make his “debut” at State Farm Stadium, where they likely won’t be giving any Rodgers rates. 

Per the dope sheet, this is the first time the Packers will play five games in October since 2010, a season that ended memorably. Currently, the head-to-head record in Arizona (including postseason) is all tied up at 16-16-4. This game will give someone the edge in the Grand Canyon State.

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

6 points

Comments (7)

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mnbadger's picture

October 27, 2021 at 12:19 pm

Great pre-game summary Maggie, thank you. GPG!

. . . and why the heck wasn't AL13 vaccinated??!!

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Swisch's picture

October 27, 2021 at 05:09 pm

Maybe Lazard is an independent thinker and a leader with the courage of his convictions.
Hasn't the NFL been encouraging players to stand up for their beliefs? Is it now telling them to be quiet and do what they're told?

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egbertsouse's picture

October 28, 2021 at 08:11 am

Then again, maybe he is a big effin baby who doesn’t give ac crap if he makes everyone around him sick or an idiot that thinks taking horse pills is a preferable alternative.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 27, 2021 at 02:57 pm

I have read a lot about the Cards offense but I fear their defense as well. I hope that we come out of the game no worse for wear. It’s asking a lot of our team to play on a short week with so many of our key players hurting. This is a real test for the team and expect that we show grit and character.

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Alphadork's picture

October 27, 2021 at 05:13 pm

At least JJ Watt is out. I hate to see a Badger hurt, but it couldn't have happened at a better time.

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gpt999's picture

October 27, 2021 at 03:32 pm

The challenge is daunting here with all the injuries, covid illness and such a tough opponent - on both sides of the ball! However, I think the wild cards are:
* can GB scheme an effective offense without its 2 best WRs?
* can AROD execute the schemed offense and avoid the heavy ARI D Line pressure?
* can the GB defense contain KM?
This is a lot to ask for a team with so many top players not participating, at least on paper. But thats why they play the game...

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Archie's picture

October 27, 2021 at 03:58 pm

best damn preview of a game that I have ever read!

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