Week 8 takes us to the desert for a historic matchup between the Packers and Cardinals. It will be the highest winning pct. (.929) by two opposing teams entering a Thursday game in week 8 or later since Thanksgiving 1934 (11-0 Bears played 10-1 Lions). Green Bay hasn’t lost a game since the opening week of the season as Arizona is coming into this matchup as the NFL’s only undefeated team with a record of 7-0.
It’s no secret that both these NFC powerhouses have some top-tier quarterbacks calling the shots which have led them to a combined record of 13-1. Kyler Murray is playing MVP level football and if you have failed to recognize that, here’s a look at how his first seven games this season stack up against the reigning MVP himself, Aaron Rodgers, from last season.
2020 Aaron Rodgers (First 7 Games): 5-2 record, 65.9 comp pct, 278.3 pass YPG, 113.0 passer rating, 20 offensive TD
2021 Kyler Murray (First 7 Games): 7-0 record, 73.5 comp pct, 286.0 pass YPG, 116.8 passer rating, 20 offensive TD
There’s no doubt Murray is on track to win his first-ever league MVP, but he is chasing something bigger which is a Super Bowl ring on a team that sits atop the NFC. A loss to the Packers this week will likely give Green Bay that coveted top seed, however, if Rodgers is eyeing an upset, he will have to do so without his top two wideouts in Davante Adams and Allen Lazard due to COVID-19 protocols.
Interestingly enough, the three-time MVP has a 6-0 record when Adams is not playing with an absurd 17:1 touchdowns to interception ratio and a 125.1 passer rating in the Matt LaFleur era (since 2019). However, Rodgers was clear that Green Bay is by no means better without Adams despite the team’s perfect six-win record.
The numbers speak for themselves and it’s safe to say that Adams is an irreplaceable talent on this offense. The quantity of guys won’t make up for the lack of quality at the wide receiver position for Green Bay on Thursday night. Despite Rodgers’ success without Adams, the future Hall of Famer has lost each of his last 10 road starts vs a Top-5 total defense based on opp rank entering the week (Cardinals ranked 4th). On top of that, the Packers signal-caller is 0-4 vs an undefeated team in Week 8 or later in his career. Coincidently enough each one of those losses came on the road.
Green Bay will not only be relying on their Aaron tossing the pigskin, but their running back Aaron (Jones) as well. Green Bay’s running back group paired with Rodgers’ arm talent is what is going to give this team a fighting chance against a stout Arizona defense that has allowed 14 points or fewer in their last three games. The Packers most certainly should snap that streak, but it’s not going to be easy playing catch up either as the Cardinals are 1 of 2 teams to rank Top 5 in scoring offense and scoring defense this season (Bills).
Murray’s pocket presence and versatility is a big reason behind Arizona’s success as the team has averaged 32+ PPG, 400+ total YPG and fewer than 18 PPG allowed. To put the cherry on top, Arizona should exploit the Packer secondary as they have used 4 WRs on 26.3 pct of offensive snaps this season, per Next Gen Stats (highest in NFL), and are the only team to have 4 WRs with 300+ rec yards each. Add a shiny new weapon in tight end Zach Ertz and this Cardinal team look borderline impossible to figure out.
Best believe Kliff Kinsbury will have the game plan to put up points against Green Bay, but it’s going to be up to the defense to stop Rodgers. The team will be without JJ Watt, but the return of Chandler Jones will make life for Rodgers and the Packers offense far from peaceful in primetime. Arizona should take this at home and if Green Bay somehow pulls off the upset, it should be none other than Rodgers proving me wrong.