Green Bay Packers v. Arizona Cardinals: Final Thoughts

Oct 10, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) hands the ball off to running back Aaron Jones (33) in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) hands the ball off to running back Aaron Jones (33) in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers head west to Arizona to take on an undefeated Cardinals team. But before we see these two heavy-weights take the field on Thursday Night, here are my final thoughts on the upcoming matchup.

Final Thoughts on Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals

As I’ve already written about this week, we should expect a heavy dose of Aaron Jones on Thursday Night. In the six games that the Green Bay Packers have had to play without Davante Adams over the last two seasons, Jones has 29 receptions for 337 yards and five receiving touchdowns. He’s also averaging 14.2 attempts per game and nearly 70 rushing yards as well. Lean on your other playmaker.

– As of me writing this, we haven’t heard if Marquez Valdes-Scantling is going to come off IR to play tonight, but if there’s a game for it to happen, this is it. Not only have the Green Bay Packers missed MVS’ big-play ability, but he is also going to help create for others with the attention his speed draws.

– Even with Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, moving the ball through the air wasn’t going to be easy. Arizona is allowing just 201 passing yards per game–the third-fewest. The Cardinals are also giving up the third-fewest explosive pass plays as well.

– Randall Cobb and Robert Tonyan–it’s your time. In previous games without Adams, we saw Tonyan have a three-touchdown performance against Atlanta and Lazard post 146 yards against New Orleans. Matt LaFleur does a very good job of still finding a way to exploit a defense’s weakness.

– If this turns into a game of constant third and long situations for the Green Bay Packers’ offense, it very well could become a long night. Arizona’s opponents are converting third downs at a rate of just 28.8 percent, which is the best in football. On fourth downs, their opponent’s success rate is 25 percent, which is tied for first.

– This Cardinals’ defense is allowing 5.0 yards per rush, however, and that ranks 31st. The 115.7 total rushing yards per game given up ranks 18th. This is going to be Green Bay’s path to victory. Leaning heavily on Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon in the run game and finding success in doing so is a must.

– Green Bay Packers fans talk about it, and apparently so does Cardinals DC Vance Joseph. When asked about Adams’ absence, Joseph mentioned that Rodgers plays an “even cleaner” game and that “he’s not forced to force the ball to Adams.” Now it goes without saying, but Green Bay is not better without Adams; however, Rodgers does tend to play within the confines of the offense more often.

– Keep your eyes on the Packers’ interior offensive line. The trio of Lucas Patrick, Jon Runyan, and Royce Newman had their struggles last week, although they were up against a very good defensive front. But this week will be another test. The Cardinals rank eighth in pressure rate.

– Green Bay needs to turn this game into a slog. They need to control the clock — run the ball — and keep this a low-scoring game. If it turns into a back-and-forth shootout, I do not like their chances.

– The Arizona offense will be the Packers’ toughest test to date. Kyler Murray is playing at an MVP level, while DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and AJ Green are all on pace for 1,000-yard seasons–and Rondale Moore isn’t too far behind. At running back, Chase Edmonds is averaging 5.8 yards per rush. They also just acquired Zach Ertz recently as well.

– We can’t forget about the Cardinal offensive line either. This group ranks sixth in pass-rush win rate from ESPN and has allowed the fifth-fewest pressures, according to PFF ($$). Arizona center Max Garcia is questionable.

– Although Murray certainly has the ability to be effective with his legs, he hasn’t relied on them nearly as much this season. Through seven games, he has 126 rushing yards, compared to 822 from a season ago.

– Because of the Arizona offensive line, Murray hasn’t been pressured a lot this season. His 47 pass attempts under pressure are the fifth-fewest this year. But when the defense does get to him, he’s still been very effective, completing almost 62 percent of his passes — which is second best — and he’s first in yards per attempt as well with 9.3.

– So, does that mean we see more blitzing? Getting to Murray quickly is going to be crucial. If he has time or is able to extend plays, keeping up with this group of pass-catchers is going to be a tall task.

– Preston Smith and Kevin King are both questionable, but getting either — or preferably both — back would be massive. Green Bay is going to need all the help they can get on the pass-rush front, and while King has taken his lumps, he provides needed depth at a key position. He’s also coming off a game in Cincinnati, where he played very well.

– We learned late on Wednesday that Arizona will be without JJ Watt. This is a huge loss for the Cardinals. While Watt doesn’t have huge sack numbers — just one — he has been effective at pressuring the quarterback with 28 this season. And considering that the Green Bay interior offensive line has had issues at times, not having to face Watt makes their jobs a bit easier.

– There’s a lot going against this Green Bay Packers team. Several key injuries, they are without two of their top receivers, it’s a short week, they’re on the road, and against a very good team. But as Mike McCarthy once said, “we’re nobody’s underdog.” Remember, with a receiving core of Jared Abbredaris, Jeff Janis, and James Jones, Aaron Rodgers and Co. nearly won a playoff game in Arizona.

– An offense made up of Jones, Dillon, possibly MVS, Randall Cobb, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Amari Rodgers, and Equanimeous St. Brown is not a bad one by any means. And, of course, Aaron Rodgers is under center. It certainly won’t be easy, and if a time traveler told me that the Packers lost by three scores, I would believe it, but don’t count them out just yet.

– David Bakhtiari could still be activated off of the PUP list, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.

– Jerry Gray, along with the help of Kirk Olivadotti, will be calling plays with Joe Barry out due to COVID. Gray does have past play-calling experience as a defensive coordinator with Buffalo.

– Basically pick a key statistical category on either side of the ball and there is a good chance that Arizona is ranked near the top. To put it simply, they’ve been dominant this season. However, I will point out that Minnesota posted 419 total yards and the Rams tallied 401.