Two of the top teams in the NFL square off Thursday night when the Arizona Cardinals battle the Green Bay Packers at Glendale, Ariz.
The Cardinals are 7-0 for the first time since 1974 when they resided in St. Louis and were guided by coaching legend Don Coryell.
The Packers are 6-1, a mark that didn’t appear likely after they were steamrolled 38-3 by the New Orleans Saints in their season debut. Green Bay’s challenge Thursday will be intensified if they are without star receiver Davante Adams.
Adams tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t be available unless he returns two negative tests prior to kickoff.
Adams is tied for second in the NFL with 52 receptions and ranks third with 744 receiving yards. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t impressed when it was pointed out that Green Bay went 6-0 without Adams over the past two seasons.
“We’re not a better team without him, that’s for sure,” Rodgers said. “We’ve just found a way in those games.”
Rodgers, who has passed for 1,710 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions, will be without another weapon after the Packers also placed wideout Allen Lazard on the COVID-19 list Tuesday.
Veteran receiver Randall Cobb said nobody is going to feel sorry for Green Bay’s situation.
“The NFL’s not going to stop because one guy’s hurt, one guy’s out,” Cobb said. “Unfortunately, that’s just the way this league works.
“It doesn’t matter. When Aaron broke his collarbone a few years back (in 2017), the NFL didn’t stop playing. When guys go out in this league that are ‘the guy,’ the NFL continues to go on.”
The Packers also will be without defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who is also out because of COVID-19 issues.
That leaves Green Bay missing its defensive mastermind as it attempts to slow down an Arizona offense averaging 32.1 points per game, fourth-best in the NFL.
The Cardinals have scored 31 or more points in six of their seven games behind quarterback Kyler Murray, who is one of the leading MVP candidates.
Murray has passed for 2,002 yards and 17 touchdowns against five interceptions. He has tossed three or more touchdowns on four occasions. Murray threw for 261 yards and three scores in last Sunday’s 31-5 win over the Houston Texans.
The third-year pro said part of the reason for the Cardinals’ success is the way players have evolved after experiencing setbacks and shortfalls.
Arizona hasn’t made the playoffs since going 13-3 under Bruce Arians in 2015.
“Just the maturity of the team, the growing pains of losing,” Murray said. “You just learn what not to do. We have the players who have the right mindset, and the team has the right mindset.
“This team is much different than any team I’ve been on.”
It’s not a sure thing that Murray will have his favorite target on the field.
Wideout DeAndre Hopkins hasn’t practiced yet this week due to a hamstring injury. Hopkins has 33 receptions for 420 yards and is tied for second in the NFL with seven touchdown catches.
Defensive end J.J. Watt (shoulder) also is ailing, and his status isn’t yet known.
Arizona will have star pass rusher Chandler Jones back after activating the outside linebacker from the COVID-19 list Monday. Jones has five sacks this season, all coming in Week 1 when he recorded a career best against the Tennessee Titans.
The Cardinals also get defensive end Zach Allen back from the COVID-19 list.
“It’ll be a great boost to get those two guys back,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Hopefully they can pick up where they left off.”