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How the Cardinals stack up against the Pack

Big matchup tonight on Thursday Night Football. How do the undefeated Cardinals stack up against the one-loss Packers?

Arizona Cardinals v Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers gets away from Budda Baker here. Will he be so lucky on Thursday Night Football?
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

All eyes around the NFL will be on our Arizona Cardinals tonight as they take on the Green Bay Packers on Thursday Night Football. And it’s not just because it’s the only game on—this matchup between the Redbirds and Pack has huge playoff implications. Tiebreakers and, potentially, a bye week are at stake.

So how do these two teams stack up? Let’s find out.

Cardinals vs. Packers Stat Comparison

Stat Cardinals Rank Packers Rank
Stat Cardinals Rank Packers Rank
Record 7-0 1 6-1 T2
Point Differential 111 1 22 11
Strength of Schedule 0.478 19 0.413 29
Turnover Margin 8 3 5 6
Total Offense (YPG) 402.1 7 337.9 23
Passing (YPG) 265.6 11 235.9 18
Rushing (YPG) 136.6 5 102.0 19
Scoring (PPG) 32.1 4 24.0 16
Total Defense (YPG) 316.7 4 331.4 7
Passing (YPG) 201.0 3 210.6 6
Rushing (YPG) 115.7 18 120.9 22
Scoring (PPG) 16.3 1 20.0 7

Overall Team Comparison

Let’s start with the top part of the table above. At 7-0 and 6-1, this is a prime time matchup of two of the best teams in the league, a veritable “Clash of the Titans,” right? I’d stop short of saying that myself. The Cardinals hold up their end of the bargain, with the best point differential in the league against a relatively average schedule. But the Packers have a mediocre +22 point differential (about the same as the 3-4 Indianapolis Colts) against what has been the fourth-easiest schedule in the league so far.

The Packers have faced only two teams with winning records, getting waxed by the 4-2 Saints in Week 1 and squeaking by the 5-2 Bengals in Week 5 in a comedy of kicking errors. (They also have a solid win against the 3-3 Steelers in Week 4.) Their other wins are a last-second win against the 49ers and a series of rather ho-hum victories over the Lions, Bears, and Washington. The Cardinals are easily the best team they’ve faced—we’ve put up 30+ against everyone but the 49ers and have double-digit victories in 5 of 7 games. That includes wins against the Titans and Rams, two teams that are as good as, or better, than the Packers.

Offensive Comparison

On paper, this looks like the Cardinals have one of the elite offenses in the league while the Packers’ unit is mediocre at best. I don’t think anyone would argue the Cardinals offense is anything but elite—those numbers speak for themselves, plus 30+ scored in 7 of 8 games. But I don’t think the numbers above paint the full picture for the Packers. That somewhat fluky Week 1 shellacking in New Orleans (well, Florida) depresses those numbers a bit, and the Pack have also faced 5 defenses in the top 13 of the league (Saints, 49ers, Steelers, Bengals, and Bears). But they have scored 24+ in every game since that Week 1 loss, and Rodgers is still one of the best QBs in the game. This is an above-average offense.

However—and this is a big HOWEVER—Rodgers may be without Davante Adams, maybe the best receiver in the league. He definitely will be without Allen Lazard and David Bakhtiari. So this unit will be compromised. However, if any QB can thrive in a situation like this, it’s Rodgers. In fact, he’s done it before:

It would surprise absolutely no one if Rodgers was able to put up 300 yards and 3 TDs even without Adams. The Cardinals defense will have a tough task no matter who suits up for the Pack tonight.

Defensive Comparison

I ran a complicated algorithm to give a visual result of the comparison between these two defenses. Here is what it came up with:

Seriously, the numbers are freaky similar. Both teams field a stingy pass defense and a generous run defense but are tough to score on. The teams even have similar numbers in stats like YPA against, YPC against, sacks, and turnovers. For those enjoying legalized sports betting in Arizona, you might want to think long and hard about taking the under (50.5) in this one.

But just like the Packers schedule has to be taken into account for their offensive numbers above, you also have to take it into account here. Again, they have faced the fourth-easiest schedule in the league, and the best QB they have faced so far is… Joe Burrow. The young Bengals QB is having a solid second season, but he’s in the same tier of QBs as guys like Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins, and Baker Mayfield, all of whom the Cardinals have beaten. And he’s certainly no Matthew Stafford. None of the other QBs the Packers have faced is any better than league average. So this defense looks better on paper than it probably is on the field. (Probably.) And it will be without standouts Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith. And now we’ll be without J.J. Watt ourselves. So maybe don’t bet the under? Who knows. That’s why they call it gambling! Either way, these are two solid defenses, even if they are missing some key pieces.

Final Thoughts

So I guess it’s time to answer the question in the title of the article. How do the Cardinals stack up against the Packers? Pretty well, actually. Look at that table again—everything the Packers do well, the Cardinals do even better.

The Cardinals have a better offense, although the Packers offense is probably a little underrated. But they might be without Davante Adams, so it might be a wash. And while the defenses look fairly evenly matched, the Packers have feasted on a much easier schedule and lesser QBs than the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are, rightly, favored by 6.5 points at the time of the writing of this article. (The line could obviously adjust based on the Watt news, Adams’s status, etc.) I don’t know how confident I feel that we’ll win this game by a touchdown, but I would be surprised if we lost outright tonight. The Packers are a compromised team on the road on a short week. Not ideal conditions for an upset—although you can never count Aaron Rodgers out.

How are you feeling about this matchup, Birdgang? Feeling confident or a little nervous? Let us know in the comments.