Somehow, the biggest game of the year in the NFC so far falls on Thursday night as the (6-1) Green Bay Packers and the (7-0) unbeaten Arizona Cardinals duke it out for the top spot in the conference in Glendale, AZ. The short week always seems to take its toll and both teams have some major losses to deal with heading in.
(+235) Packers at (-290) Cardinals (-6.5, 50.5)
While it’s not reflected on the injury report, the Packers will be without wide receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard who are both out on the Covid list. With Marquez Valdes-Scantling on injured reserve, it’ll be up to Randall Cobb to lead the receiving corps but tight ends Robert Tonyan and Mercedes Lewis could be in for an impactful evening. Defensively, cornerback Kevin King and LB Preston Smith were limited in practice all week and are questionable against one of the league’s top offenses.
The Cardinals also have some key players questionable including and WR DeAndre Hopkins, replacement center Max Garcia, and nose tackle Rashard Lawrence, while NT Corey Peters is out. However, the biggest news coming from the Cards is that J.J. Watt is out and likely to miss the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury that requires surgery. It’s a huge blow to a defense that had become one of the best overall groups in the league.
All that stuff makes this game more difficult to pick but the spread moved in the Cards favor from -3.5 to -6.5 with the over/under losing 2.5-points, so the oddsmakers and the public think the personnel situation heavily favors Arizona.
Despite being 6-1 thus far (winning 6-straight), I haven’t been particularly impressed with the Packers. They’ve only played two teams with winning records and they are 1-1 in those games, and they had moments where they struggled in each of their wins. More than half of Arizona’s wins have come against losing teams as well, but it’s their dominant wins over the Rams, Titans, and Browns that really stand out. In their toughest tests, the Cards have won by a combined 65 points.
|Team||OFF – Total Yards||OFF – Pass||OFF – Rush||OFF – Scoring||DEF – Total Yards||DEF – Pass||DEF – Rush||DEF – Scoring|
|AZ Cardinals||2nd||6th||5th||4th||10th||6th||21st||1st (tied)|
Even with both teams at full strength, I would have favored the Cards based on what I’ve seen and their strength of schedule. They have been better, on both sides of the ball, against better competition. One of the most interesting numbers that in this matchup is the red zone TD conversion rate where Arizona ranks 7th (68.8%) on offense and Green Bay ranks 30th (78.9%) defensively. Conversely, both are slightly above 50% in the other direction. So, if AZ makes it to the red zone (which they certainly will), the exchange rate of TDs-to-FGs will be heavily in their favor.
Can the Packers win this game and, if so, how? When you have Aaron Rodgers at QB, you’re going to have a chance but the area you want to attack the Cards is their run defense. They rank 21st at 115.7-yards allowed per game, but more noticeably, they give up the 2nd most yards-per-carry (5.0-YPC). However, as I mentioned, they do tighten up in the red zone and have only given up 3-TDs rushing (tied-2nd). So, the Packers are going to have to let Aaron Jones lead the way but convert through the air once they get inside the 20-yard line, but Arizona has the 8th best defensive TD% against the pass.
Making things more difficult on the Pack, their run defense is right behind the Cards’ at 4.9-YPC allowed. So, Kyler Murray, Chase Edmonds, and James Connor will be able to dictate pace themselves. Plus, GB ranks 25th in defensive TD% against the pass. No matter how you slice it, this seems like a bad matchup for the Packers made worse by the absence of the league’s best WR. No matter where the game goes, the Cardinals are better. They just have to go out there and prove it.
Pick: Cardinals | Vs Spread: Cardinals -6.5 | O/U: Under 50.5 | Final: AZ 31 – 17 GB