Both the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals control their own destiny in the race for home-field advantage in the NFC postseason bracket. The Cardinals (7-0) remain the only unbeaten team left in the NFL, the maturation of quarterback Kyler Murray fostering one of the league’s most potent offensive attacks. Victories over fellow Super Bowl contenders in the Titans, Browns, and Rams made an early statement, Arizona racking up a league-leading plus-111 scoring margin through seven games.
Green Bay, however, poses a different challenge, capable of going punch-for-punch on offense through the play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After a rocky opening game against New Orleans, the Packers (6-1) have won six straight, their former NFL MVP throwing 15 touchdowns during that stretch while turning the ball over only once.
Expect offensive fireworks in a game that has must-win implications for both teams. A loss by the Packers would put them three games behind the Cardinals, handing them the home-field tiebreaker with nine games left to play. Considering the Rams, Browns and Ravens are still left on the Packers’ schedule, that gap would appear too large to make up.
Meanwhile, a loss by the Cardinals knocks them out of the top seed, leaving them just a half-game up on the Rams in their own division. It means the warm-weather team could face the prospect of potentially heading up to Lambeau Field for the NFC Championship Game, one of the coldest and most difficult places to play for road teams once January hits. It’s not a place a young team with limited playoff experience would like to be.
So, can Green Bay put itself back in the NFC driver’s seat, Rodgers wiping away the last dirty remnants of an ugly offseason standoff? The Cardinals would be a great team to finish that rehab against; he hasn’t won against them since 2012 and is 0-2 all-time against Arizona in the playoffs. Who will put more points on the board in one of the biggest games of the year to date?
Thursday Night Football: Green Bay (6-1) at Arizona (7-0)
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 28 at 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime
Spread: Cardinals -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Rodgers vs. Murray
That’s the battle everyone is paying to see. The latest BetMGM odds have Murray the odds-on favorite to win NFL MVP this season, eking past Dak Prescott of the Cowboys at +350 while Rodgers sits sixth at +1000.
Both men are largely responsible for making their team a top-tier Super Bowl contender. Murray’s greatly improved his accuracy this year, leading the NFL with a 73.5 percent completion rate while slotting inside the top five in virtually every other category: QB rating (second), touchdown passes (T-fourth), and passing yards (fifth).
Murray’s maturation has come in getting more people involved in the offense. There’s a lot of mouths to feed, from top wideout DeAndre Hopkins to deep threat Christian Kirk and veteran A.J. Green. All three have been kept happy with more than 400 receiving yards, and now tight end Zach Ertz has been thrown into the mix, picked up from the Eagles in a trade. Ertz’s debut last week included a career-high 47-yard touchdown catch, fitting right in with the high-flying offense.
As for Rodgers, he slots behind Murray this year in just about metric imaginable, from wins to yards per pass attempt, with one very important exception: taking care of the football. Rodgers has just three picks this year, two of them in that first-week wipeout against the Saints, and he hasn’t lost a fumble yet.
Compare that to Murray, who’s made a handful more mistakes (five INTs). He also gave up a safety last week against the lowly Houston Texans, got sacked a season-high four times, and endured a number of hard hits to the point he made multiple visits to the medical tent during the game.
Could that provide an opening for the Packers’ defense to put more pressure on Murray? Their defense is tied for seventh in the NFL with 18 sacks, collecting 11 of them in the past three games alone. Murray’s been difficult to take down, demoralizing defenders with his ability to escape tackles with his legs and throw downfield. Getting him just once, strip-sacking the football might be the difference-maker in a game each team could score on every possession.