Tonight’s game against the unbeaten Cardinals was already set-up to be the biggest test yet for the Packers. But it now appears certain they will also be without Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, along with DC Joe Barry. All were placed on the Covid reserve list this week. So what was already a formidable match-up has become even more daunting. Nonetheless, the Packers have been able to find success without Adams – they are 6-0 in the last 3 seasons without him. These games may potentially show the Packers path to victory against Arizona.
Matt LaFleur has done a great job being able to game plan around Adams’ absence, and this has resulted in two of Aaron Jones’ top performances: 182 total yards and 4 TDs against the Cowboys and 226 total yards and 2 TDs against the Chiefs in 2019. The Packers were able to catch a break also, with the Cardinals declaring JJ Watt out with a shoulder injury. This may make the game plan a little clearer for the Packers.
Expect them to use a lot of 21 personnel with both Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, or 12 personnel with Jones and some combination of their tight ends to try and take advantage of a suspect Arizona run defense without their best interior defender. For as good as the Cardinals defense has been this year (they rank 2nd in defensive DVOA) they are 31st in the league in yards per rush. This should be an area the Packers should be able to have success.
The problem thus far for Green Bay is that they have struggled on early downs running the ball. They rank 28th in the league in early down rushing success rate. First and second down are going to be huge so that they can stay out of obvious passing situations where Chandler Jones and Markus Golden can be one dimensional and create havoc for Aaron Rodgers. The Cardinals also happen to be the league’s best team on 3rd down, allowing conversions on only 28.8% of attempts. If the Packers are able to consistently win on first and second down, it will also make live much easier for an offensive line that struggled a week ago against Washington.
On the other side of the ball, the task is very clear – although that doesn’t mean it will be easy to execute. Kyler Murray has been an MVP caliber quarterback to this point of the season. Although he is averaging just under 20 yards a game on the ground, the Packers have had difficulty containing quarterbacks escaping the pocket. Jameis Winston, Jared Goff, Justin Fields, and Taylor Heinicke have all rushed for at least 35 yards, with Heinicke going for 95 a week ago.
The Packers edge defenders will have to stay disciplined with their rushes, and aim to keep Murray in the pocket. And with starting center Rodney Hudson out and back-up Max Garcia questionable, the Packers have a huge advantage inside. Kenny Clark should be able to create interior pressure, and if the Packers can minimize Murray getting out to the edge, they have an opportunity to force him into one or two mistakes.
If the Packers are able to come out of Phoenix with a victory, it will undoubtedly be one of the best coaching performances of Matt LaFleur’s young career. But there is still plenty of talent available on this roster, and a clear, albeit arduous path to victory.——————
Jared is a rogue Packers fan from a Steelers family and an overall football junkie, including playing 4 years at Ithaca College. You can follow him on twitter at @JPrugar.