The Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers will collide for what should be an incredibly exciting iteration of Thursday Night Football.
Kyler Murray and the Cardinals enter the competitive contest sporting an undefeated record of 7-0. Winners of six straight matches and a streak worth defending, Aaron Rodgers and his high-flying Packers will look to spoil the party while handing head coach Kliff Kingsbury his first loss of the 2021 campaign. Both units will unfortunately be without several key players, with the likes of J.J. Watt, Davante Adams, and Jaire Alexander set to serve as spectators as they deal with a variety of issues ranging from COVID-related protocols to injuries.
Both teams will be hungry for a victory as they continue to jockey for the top position in the NFC. Here are three player-versus-player matchups we’re particularly excited to monitor.
CHANDLER JONES VS. ELGTON JENKINS
One of the league's most feared pass rushers will make his triumphant return to the field on Thursday after returning from the COVID-19 list. Jones represents a massive challenge for any and all offensive linemen and Jenkins will have to be in his best form if he hopes to stifle the three-time Pro Bowler.
Jones, who has failed to record a single quarterback takedown since his record-breaking five-sack day against the Tennessee Titans, will look to get back on track against an undermanned Packers offensive line. The Cardinals typically employ Jones against the opposition's left tackle, and that will be Jenkins on Thursday night. A natural interior offensive lineman, Jenkins has performed at a stunningly high level on the outside since replacing the injured David Bakhtiari, who has yet to be activated from the team's Physically Unable to Perform list. This matchup should provide must-watch entertainment.
AARON JONES VS. ARIZONA’S FRONT SEVEN
The Packers will be incredibly short-handed in the pass-catching department. A trio of receivers in Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling will all be unavailable with Adams and Lazard dealing with COVID-related issues, while Valdes-Scantling failed to heal from a hamstring ailment in time to be activated from injured reserve.
These absences will thrust veteran Randall Cobb and the disappointing Equanimeous St. Brown into starring roles in Green Bay's passing offense, ultimately forcing the Packers to get awfully creative on the offensive side of the ball. Look for Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur to prioritize getting star running back Jones involved early and often. Jones is a dual-threat playmaker who can make an impact both running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield. Arizona's front seven will be on high alert. If they can contain Jones, they'll love their chances to reign victorious.
DEANDRE HOPKINS VS. ERIC STOKES
The Packers will unfortunately be without All-Pro cornerback Alexander, as the former Louisville standout continues to nurse a shoulder injury. His status for the remainder of the season is currently a mystery, and his absence has thrust rookie first-round pick Stokes into an even larger role in Green Bay's secondary.
Stokes has begun his NFL career in rather impressive fashion, all things considered, but the challenge will be monumental should Packers acting defensive coordinator Jerry Gray task Stokes with shadowing the elite Hopkins on Thursday night. Hopkins has shockingly yet top 100 receiving yards in a single game in 2021, but this could be the opportunity he's eagerly been awaiting. It's only a matter of time before Murray and Hopkins get on the same page and we could witness their chemistry blossom throughout this appetizing contest.
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