Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals Odds & Game Pick (2021)

Oct 26, 2021 - 9:16 PM

I have mixed feelings about Thursday Night Football. Generally, It feels unnecessary and usually results in lousy games played by lousy teams.

But then the NFL brings us in with a matchup like this. The NFC’s No. 1 seed is on the line when the Green Bay Packers travel west to battle the undefeated Arizona Cardinals.

Who saw this being the biggest Thursday-night showdown of the season thus far?

However, the NFC North-leading Packers suffered a significant blow earlier in the week when placing star receiver Davante Adams on the COVID-19 reserve list. As a result, the spread jumped three points from an opening -3 all the way up to -6 in favor of Arizona.

Are the Packers coming at a discount without Adams, or will the Cardinals continue to roll? Let’s break it down.

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  • Opening line: Cardinals -3
  • Current line: Cardinals -6
  • Total: 51

Can short-handed Packers find a way? 

A day after placing Adams on the COVID-19 list, Green Bay also put fellow wide receiver Allen Lazard on the reserve:

That’s tough news for Aaron Rodgers, who’s currently left with Randall Cobb, rookie Amari Rodgers and maybe Marquez Valdes-Scantling — who could return from a hamstring injury — as his primary wideouts Thursday night. Of course, he’ll have his backfield stable featuring Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, plus tight end Robert Tonyan. Yet an already tough task for Rodgers is now even harder against an Arizona defense that ranks second in total DVOA, second in pass defense DVOA, and seventh in run defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders.

While the Packers covered with a 24-10 win over Washington in Week 7, they hardly dominated. Green Bay was significantly out-gained in total yards, 430-304, and surrendered 25 first downs. The difference came in the red zone, where Washington went 0-for-4 on the day.

Washington drove into Green Bay territory eight times and scored only 10 points. That should tell you plenty about who deserved to cover, and maybe win that game.

That brings up another concern. Green Bay’s defense has taken a step back from last season. The Packers rank 24th in total DVOA, 21st in pass defense DVOA, and 23rd in DVOA against the run. The absences of pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith and star cornerback Jaire Alexander have definitely hurt, and their injury woes may only get worse this week. Starters Preston Smith, Kevin King, Dean Lowry, and Kenny Clark are all listed as questionable.

It’s safe to say Green Bay won’t be at full strength Thursday night.

Arizona keeps rolling

The Cardinals remain the NFL’s biggest surprise approaching the season’s midway point. I liked the Cards as a team to watch this summer, but they’ve exceeded my expectations.

After a sluggish start, Arizona woke up and covered as massive favorites over the Houston Texans. In a truly dominant effort, the Cardinals out-gained the Texans, 397-160, and held Houston to eight first downs in a 31-5 win.

Kyler Murray gets all the love, and deservedly so, but the defense isn’t getting enough recognition. Arizona has a nasty front seven headlined by J.J. Watt, Chandler Jones, Isaiah Simmons, and Jordan Hicks. This defense has racked up 19 sacks and generated pressure on 25.7% of opponent dropbacks this year. They could wreak havoc against a Packers offensive line with a 7.2% adjusted sack rate this season.

Arizona’s offense can be near impossible to stop when it’s running right. The Cardinals love to spread teams out with Murray as the focal point, whether it’s with his arm or his legs. Arizona has utilized four wide-receiver sets on 25% of its snaps, by far the most in the league. Those spread formations make it even harder to contain the quarterback if he gets outside of the pocket.

If both of Green Bay’s star edge rushers are out Thursday night, expect Arizona to exploit that matchup on the outside with Murray and tailback Chase Edmonds.

Bottom Line

A cross-country trip on a short week is already hard enough. Then factor in all of Green Bay’s, and it’s even harder to back the Pack. It’s a shame, because I initially circled this game as a potential opportunity to fade Arizona.

Rodgers will surely keep Green Bay competitive, and betting against him always makes me queasy. However, getting out of this game healthy might be Green Bay’s main goal at this point. I’d wait for further clarification on who’s in and out for Green Bay, but I’m now leaning to lay the points with Arizona.

The pick: Lean Arizona -6, wait for clarification on Packers injuries, don’t bet at higher than -6

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Matt Barbato is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato.

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