Can Kyler’s Cards deliver statement win over Green Bay?

Watch the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals (7-0) host the Green Bay Packers (6-1) on Thursday Night Football, live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.20am in the early hours of Friday morning

Last Updated: 28/10/21 6:12pm

Can Kyler Murray lead the Cardinals to another win?

Can Kyler Murray lead the Cardinals to another win?

The undefeated Arizona Cardinals have never started an NFL season 8-0 in franchise history.

The Cards get the chance to change that on Thursday night as they host the 6-1 Green Bay Packers, with one of the current league MVP favourites in Kyler Murray facing off against three-time recipient and reigning champ Aaron Rodgers.

Murray currently has two more wins, is averaging more pass yards per game (286.0), has a higher comp percentage (73.5) and passer rating (116.8) this season than Rodgers did through the first seven games of his 2020 campaign.

Not that the Cardinals will be intimidated in any way by the opposition they face, given that over the course of their seven consecutive wins to start the season they’ve downed playoff contenders in the Tennessee Titans, the Cleveland Browns and, crucially, the Los Angeles Rams (their only defeat) from their own division. And they’ve beaten them all handily too – by 25, 23 and 17 points, respectively.

The Cardinals own the No 1 ranked scoring defense in the league, allowing just 16.3 points per game. Meanwhile, on offense, Murray has an astonishing array of offensive weapons at his disposal; there’s DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green and Rondale Moore at receiver, the mightily effective double-act of Chase Edmonds and James Conner out of the backfield, and the recently acquired Zach Ertz at tight end.

Sticking with their collection of wideouts, Arizona are the only team in the NFL to have four receivers posting over 300 yards through the first eight weeks of the season, while they have accounted for 15 touchdown catches between them.

On the other sideline, the Packers will sadly be without Rodgers’ go-to target in Davante Adams, who has tested positive for Covid-19 this week, as well as the unvaccinated Allen Lazard, who was deemed a close contact.

Arizona, however, are weakened on defense with the loss of disruptive, veteran defensive end J.J. Watt, who is likely lost for the season as he requires surgery on a shoulder injury aggravated in their latest win over the Houston Texans.

That said, Thursday night’s matchup between these two NFC juggernauts is still set to be a classic. And Good Morning Football presenter Peter Schrager has called on Murray and the Cardinals to put a marker down on prime time.

“This is the best Thursday night game we’ve had in ages, maybe ever,” Schrager said on Thursday. “I think this is Arizona’s coming out party and will be known as ‘the Kyler Murray game’.

“We’ve had so many big Rodgers games over the years, he has already done so much with adversity around him – like having his receivers down – but tonight is the night Kyler emerges on the national stage.

“Is Kyler going to have that game where, on Friday morning, we’re waking up and asking ‘is Kyler the best quarterback in all of football?’

“A win basically sees the NFC go through Arizona. ‘We are the lead dogs, and you’ve got to beat us to get to the Super Bowl’.

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“Since the NFL expanded the playoffs to 14 teams, the number one seed in each conference becomes all the more important. Not only does it mean they have home-field advantage, they also get a bye when everyone else has to play in the Wild Card round.

“They’d put themselves in a position where they’d control things – wins over the Rams and the Packers, two of the top teams in the conference and maybe the best they’ll play all season.

“It will give them the head-to-head tiebreaker over both, but it will also make a statement to the rest of the NFC.

“You look at what they’ve done this season and they’ve been really consistent; they’ve scored 30 plus against every team they’ve faced except for the San Francisco 49ers. If they do the same tonight, on national television and put up 30 on the Packers, that sends a statement.”

That being said, Schrager did also finish with a note of caution to the Cardinals, who found themselves, the same team who found themselves being hyped at 6-3 midway through the 2020 season before badly falling away to an 8-8 finish to finish outside of the playoffs.

The Cardinals beat the Buffalo Bills – the eventual No 2 seed in the AFC – 32-30 in Week 10 courtesy of a sensational Hail Mary touchdown pass from Murray to Hopkins in the dying seconds of the game. They’d lose their next three and five of their last seven thereafter.

“Last year they had this coming out party against Buffalo, the ‘Hail Murray’ to win it, but then the team fell apart after that, Murray got injured and they missed the playoffs,” Schrager said.

“This year they’ve peaked early, t’s only the eighth week, but you beat the Packers tonight and you’re in the driving seat and you silence a lot of critics who had you as the fourth-best team in their division – let alone the NFC.

“Lose and suddenly people are questioning are Dallas [Cowboys] a better team; are Tampa Bay [Buccaneers] a better team; are Green Bay and the Rams better?

“There are a lot of one-loss teams out there. There are no other undefeated teams.

“Tonight is where the Cardinals can show us what they’re going to be.”

Watch the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals (7-0) host the Green Bay Packers (6-1) on Thursday Night Football, live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.20am in the early hours of Friday morning.

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