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Packers vs. Cardinals Thursday Night Football Showdown Game Breakdown & NFL DFS Picks

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Welcome to the NFL Showdown Matchups Showdown Highlights for Week 8 Thursday Night Football. Here we will provide a quick overview of the game’s key storylines and highlight some of the key insights from Awesemo’s world-class suite of tools to find the best NFL DFS picks for DraftKings and FanDuel Showdown lineups. Let us dive into the NFL DFS picks today for the Week 8 Packers vs. Cardinals Thursday Night Football matchup.

Week 8 Thursday Night Football NFL DFS Showdown Picks

Two NFC juggernauts meet in Arizona this Thursday for one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the 2021 season, with the 6-1 Packers on the road taking on the undefeated Cardinals. The biggest storylines are about who will not be on the field, however, with Green Bay’s offense reeling from the unexpected absence of Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, who are both on the COVID-19/Reserve list. The Packers can take some solace in the fact that their absences are temporary, but the loss of Adams will be nearly impossible to cover up. Adams is the unequivocal star of the receiving corps, ranking second in the NFL in target share and fifth in air yards share, and without him against Arizona’s much-improved defense, the Packers are fighting a major uphill battle. The Cardinals are expected to have DeAndre Hopkins despite his questionable status heading into this matchup, but they will be without J.J. Watt, who is expected to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery this week. The Cardinals defense takes a big hit, but that does not knock them out of the elite tier of defensive squads. The Cardinals, playing at home and favored by a touchdown, have the upper hand in this Showdown.

Jam in the Quarterbacks

Kyler Murray’s and Aaron Rodgers’ salaries are inordinately high, but so are their floor and ceiling projections. Murray has been a superstar this season, ranking top five in the NFL in adjusted yards per attempt, true completion percentage, fantasy points per dropback and deep ball completion percentage. He can destroy defenses with accurate deep passes to an array of capable receivers, which now include newly acquired tight end Zach Ertz. Murray also ranks fifth in carries per game and third in touchdowns rushing. Rodgers ranks top five at the position in deep attempts and red-zone attempts but has not been quite as effective on a per-pass basis, ranking 10th in adjusted yards per attempt and true completion percentage. The Top Plays Tool shows a ridiculous 49% chance that one of Murray or Rodgers will be the optimal Captain on DraftKings, and on FanDuel it is up to a staggering 63%. Playing any other player on at MVP on FanDuel automatically creates leverage against the field, but for cash games, the goal is to find a way to fit both in.

Expect Green Bay’s Offense to Coalesce Around Three Players

With Adams and Lazard sidelined, expect the Packers to feed Aaron Jones in a way they have not all season. Jones has not played on more than 73.6% of snaps in any game this season, but that has a chance to change Thursday, with so many skill players out of the lineup. Jones’ touches were down significantly against Washington, as his 11 overall opportunities were his fewest since the Packers’ Week 1 debacle against New Orleans. But this week 20-plus touches, including six or more targets, are a reasonable prediction.

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Outside of Jones, the Packers are expected to activate Marquez Valdes-Scantling from injured reserve, and he should get a full-time snap share. In three games of action Valdes-Scantling ranks 36th in the NFL in targets per route run, and that ranking should climb after Thursday. Robert Tonyan, who saw five targets on a 73.6% snap share a week ago, should also see a boost in playing time and opportunity, but Randall Cobb should be Rodgers’ primary checkdown option this Thursday, which could lead to a big game on full-PPR platforms like DraftKings. Jones, Cobb and Valdes-Scantling have a combined 25.6% chance to be the optimal Captain on DraftKings, and all three rank among the top six plays in probability to appear in the optimal lineup.

Hopkins’ Salary Makes Him Tough to Roster, But He Can Break the Slate

Hopkins is far from 100% healthy headed into this matchup. The Cardinals have an array of high-quality weapons in the passing game beyond Hopkins, with A.J. Green having a career resurgence, rookie Rondale Moore making people miss in the open field and Christian Kirk experiencing his best season as a pro. Ertz in the mix also has an impact, as he scored from 46 yards out last week against the Texans. Hopkins’ salary is the third highest among active players on DraftKings and fourth highest on FanDuel, which seems high compared to Hopkins’ probability of being the top performer on the slate. But when Hopkins does hit, he can hit for slate-breaking scores. He will likely need multiple touchdowns to get there, but that is possible against Green Bay’s middling secondary, which ranks bottom 10 in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed.

Do Not Forget About the Arizona Backfield

While the Cardinals’ top-tier passing attack has seized the early-season headlines, less fanfare has gone to the Cardinals backfield that has quietly been much more efficient than in past seasons. Chase Edmonds saw 18 opportunities last week against the Texans, the fifth time he has reached 15-plus looks in a game, and he has now finished with at least 75 yards in all five games. Edmonds ranks fifth among all running backs target share (15.5%), and he looks as elusive as ever, ranking fifth in explosive run rate and 11th in evaded tackles per touch. James Conner, while technically the backup, has thrived with high-value opportunities, ranking 39th among running backs in opportunity share but 10th in red zone touches, and he has six touchdowns this season. It is a bit of a surprise to see Conner’s salary above Edmonds’ on both sites, but it is worth taking shots at both players on both FanDuel and DraftKings, as both players have positive leverage scores in the Top Plays Tool.

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The Bottom Line

The Cardinals may ultimately win this matchup, as Arizona almost certainly has the better roster top to bottom, but do not expect Rodgers to go away quietly. Even without their star receiver, the most likely game flow involves Rodgers producing respectable enough numbers to keep the game competitive, so the Packers should score at least 21 points. Green Bay should be able to lean on Jones and an assortment of replacement-level weaponry to at least cover the spread, but it is worth mentioning that the wheels have fallen off this year at times, like when the Packers completely unraveled against the Saints in Week 1. And by most metrics, Murray is outplaying Rodgers this season. The Green Bay defense is almost certainly in the bottom third of the NFL, which is why Arizona will eventually pull away from the Packers.

Week 8 Thursday Night Football Prediction: Cardinals 30, Packers 21

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We also have NFL DFS showdown projections and NFL DFS single-game ownership projections. If you’re interested in other NFL DFS strategy for multiple game slates, head over to DFS NFL ownership projections, Awesemo's NFL Data Central, NFL daily fantasy football rankings, and NFL DFS stacks. Take a look at our inactives list, NFL depth chart list and starting lineups. View our FanDuel DFS NFL ownership rankings and our DraftKings DFS NFL ownership rankings.

A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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