The Arizona Cardinals will get their first opportunity to showcase their talent in primetime on national TV tonight in Cardinals vs Packers. The game is at State Farm Stadium with kickoff set for 5:20 AZ time.
The Packers are missing star CB Jaire Alexander and now WRs Davante Adams and Allen Lazard this week with COVID, but the Cardinals will be lacking key pieces themselves, in Rodney Hudson and JJ Watt (supposedly for the rest of the year). Hudson’s backup Max Garcia is also questionable, possibly leaving AZ with Sean Harlow to start at Center tonight (can we get Lamont Gaillard back?). Both teams will have their hands full overcoming deficiencies on a short week.
For Green Bay, I expect LaFleur to lean on his Aarons. Aaron Rodgers will still be Aaron Rodgers and distribute the ball all over the field. In fact, under Matt LaFleur the Packers are 5-0 without Davante Adams in the lineup. Aaron Jones is also still Aaron Jones. He’s averaging 4.5 ypc this season and slowing him tonight will be key.
On the other side of the ball, Packers will have their hands full with arguably the best group of pass catchers in the league. Even without Jaire, their defense has been impressive ranking 7th in yards and points allowed. Creating pressure to force turnovers will likely be necessary for GB’s defense to slow Kyler Murray.
For Arizona, they’ll need young DL to step up and fill the void of JJ Watt. The development of Zach Allen, Rashard Lawrence, and Leki Fotu will be important for this team’s success tonight and going forward for the rest of this year. DL Jordan Phillips also needs to stay healthy and continue to make an impact especially in the run game. And although Watt will be missed on the field, his presence will still be felt in the locker room and on the sideline as Coach Watt.
“The Trees”, young LBs Zay and Zaven will need to be disciplined in their run lanes and constantly aware of Jones out of the backfield. Cardinals need to stop the run first and foremost, and then make sure Rodgers doesn’t have all day to throw. On the offensive side, kind of like the defensive side, AZ needs to continue what they’ve done all year. The Packers are 6th in passing yards allowed but 22nd in rushing. And many probably don’t know it, but even without Kyler running as much this year the Cardinals are still a Top 5 rushing team.
The run game will be crucial for both teams, and how well they run will affect how effective their play-action shots will be. Whoever runs the ball better, will likely throw the ball better, and whoever throws the ball better will likely win the game.
Establishing the run on offense, and stopping Aaron Jones on defense will be keys. Tonight will be an opportunity for Kliff and the Cardinals to show the rest of the league that they really are contenders this year. What are your keys to tonight’s game? Give us your thoughts on Twitter @Cardinals_ATB.