Green Bay Packers (6-1) at Arizona Cardinals (7-0)
The Packers have one loss and the Cardinals are undefeated, but these two teams aren’t that evenly matched. While the Cardinals have just two one-score wins and have won their seven games by an average of 15.9 points per game, the Packers have just two wins by more than 10 points and those came in games in which the Packers were down at halftime at home to the winless Lions and in which the Packers were outgained at home on a per play basis by a mediocre Washington team. Meanwhile, the Packers’ one loss came in blowout fashion to the Saints by 35. Add in an easy schedule and the Packers rank 5th, 22nd, and 28th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency respectively, while the Cardinals rank 7th, 4th, and 6th respectively.
The Packers were 13-3 last season, but this isn’t the same team as a year ago due to key absences like left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, who are all among the best players in the league at their respective positions. This week, wide receiver Davante Adams will join them, another player who is one of the best in the league at his position. Aside from Aaron Rodgers, those are arguably their four most important players. That will likely catch up to them as they face tougher competition like the Cardinals.
The Cardinals are going to be missing defensive tackle JJ Watt in this matchup, but they are in much better shape overall injury wise and will get edge defender Chandler Jones back from a two-game absence. I have them calculated as 7-point favorites in this matchup, so we’re getting some line value with the Cardinals at -6.5. That’s not a ton of line value, but it’s still significant because about 10% of games are decided by exactly a touchdown and I would probably bet the Cardinals in normal circumstances because they’re in such a great spot, with non-divisional home favorites covering at a 65.0% rate all-time on a short week.
I say “normal circumstances” because the Packers are no ordinary road underdog, with Aaron Rodgers under center. That aforementioned trend works because it’s tough for inferior teams to travel on the road and face an unfamiliar opponent out of the division, but having an elite quarterback like Rodgers makes it a lot easier. Unsurprisingly, Rodgers is 10-5 ATS on Thursday Night Football in his career, including 5-3 ATS on the road.
Rodgers does tend to decline more on the road than the average quarterback does, but I still think he’s as well equipped as any quarterback to take this team on the road and potentially play this game close or pull the upset. This isn’t a reason to bet the Packers, but it’s a reason not to take the Cardinals even though they’re getting some line value in a good spot. Arizona is still the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but there is too much conflicting stuff here to be confident betting them.
Arizona Cardinals 31 Green Bay Packers 23
Pick against the spread: Arizona -6.5