Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) runs as Houston Texans outside linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (51) makes the tackle during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 31-5. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) scores a touchdown as Houston Texans outside linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (51) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden (44) celebrates his sack against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 24-10. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona's Kyler Murray has become one of the NFL's most exciting quarterbacks, scurrying around in the pocket to avoid would-be tacklers and often finishing with spectacular throws downfield.
Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like a description of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers.
It's no surprise then that Murray - who is 14 years younger than Rodgers - has modeled portions of his game after Rodgers. Now the two early season MVP candidates will meet on the field for the first time in their NFL careers when the Cardinals host the Packers on Thursday night.
''He's probably my favorite quarterback to watch - his swag, the way he plays the game, what he's done in his career,'' Murray said. ''I admire his game a lot. First time playing against him, first time being able to meet him.
''It's pretty cool, I'm looking forward to it.''
The Cardinals are 7-0 for the first time since 1974 and trying to set a franchise record for wins to start a season. Green Bay (6-1) stumbled in the season opener, but since then has won six straight games. Rodgers is rolling during that six-game stretch, throwing 15 touchdowns and just one interception.
Rodgers had plenty of complimentary words for Murray as well. He also acknowledged that even though it's just Week 8, there are playoff-type vibes in the air.
''We're aware of that,'' Rodgers said. ''A lot of times when you're not playing a division opponent it comes down to the tiebreakers like this. There's still a lot of football and a lot that can happen throughout the season with momentum and the way teams play, but this is an important one.''
GREEN BAY'S COVID-19 ISSUES
Green Bay will likely be playing this game without receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, who went on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week. Adams is tied for second in the NFL in catches (52) and is third in yards receiving (744).
The virus also has impacted Green Bay's coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry tested positive this week and won't be available Thursday.
Arizona can relate. The Cardinals are just getting over a virus outbreak on their roster. Coach Kliff Kingsbury, quarterbacks coach Cam Turner, edge rusher Chandler Jones and defensive linemen Zach Allen and Corey Peters have all missed time over the past two weeks. Everyone but Peters has returned.
The Cardinals navigated those COVID-19 challenges and still beat Cleveland and Houston. Arizona expects Green Bay will have similar resiliency.
''At the NFL level, you can't count out teams when someone's not on the field,'' Cardinals rookie linebacker Zaven Collins said. ''(Adams and Lazard) are great players, but usually there's not a very big drop-off when a backup is in. That's something you have to take into account. It might not change that drastically.''
The Cardinals are also missing some star power. Defensive end J.J. Watt (shoulder) was ruled out on Wednesday after not practicing all week. It'll be the first game he's missed this season.
Kingsbury is known for his air raid-style passing game, but the Cardinals' run game is also among the league's elite this year, ranking fifth in the NFL.
Most of the work has been done by the stellar duo of Chase Edmonds and James Conner, whose contrasting styles have been a good fit together. Edmonds is a little more of a speedster and a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. Conner's bulldog style has become the team's go-to option in short yardage and goal-line situations.
Edmonds is averaging nearly 6 yards per carry and has also caught 27 passes. Conner has 89 carries for 336 yards and six touchdowns.
Thursday's game features plenty of notable guys who played for the Houston Texans recently.
Cardinals star receiver DeAndre Hopkins arrived in Arizona last season after a trade with Houston. Outside linebacker J.J. Watt joined the Cardinals via free agency after spending his entire career in Houston.
Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb spent one season with the Texans last year before the Packers reacquired him at the start of training camp. Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus joined the Packers last week after the Texans released him.
Houston has gutted its roster over the past few years as it tries to rebuild. The Texans have a 1-6 record and lost 31-5 to the Cardinals last week.
ARIZONA'S NEW PLAYMAKER
Tight end Zach Ertz had a stellar debut for the Cardinals last week, catching three passes for 66 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Texans.
Arizona acquired Ertz from the Eagles in a trade after Maxx Williams was lost for the season because of a knee injury. The 30-year-old Ertz is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and makes the Cardinals' offense more diverse.
In his first game with the Cardinals, Ertz hauled in a one-handed grab over the middle and also scored on a 47-yard touchdown, which was the longest of his career.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Malik Turner caught his lone target in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. Turner's catch went for a 10 yard gain and gives him eight catches for 61 yards on the season. Turner is mostly a special teamer but with Amari Cooper (COVID-19) only playing on 35% of the Cowboys snaps and Cedrick Wilson (ankle) out, Turner saw a little more run on offense. He's not a fantasy option even in the deepest formats.
Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein made all five of his kicks in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. He attempted two field goals and three extra points and made all five of those kicks. The field goals came from 55 and 34 yards out. Zuerlein has been a solid kicker all season long and should continue in that role for the remainder of the year.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (COVID-19) returned to the field in Week 13 but played sparingly, making just two catches for 41 yards. He ended up only seeing two targets in his first game back after suffering from COVID-19 without being vaccinated. Cooper only played on 35% of the offensive snaps for Dallas in this game. He should be back to his full role in Week 14, but won't be able to be relied on as more than a high-floor WR3 in that game.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup caught a touchdown pass in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints. Gallup's touchdown was the only score the Dallas passing game was able to score. In total, Gallup saw nine targets, catching five passes for 36 yards and the score. His touchdown came on a fantastic catch on a goal line fade from a yard away in the first quarter. With Amari Cooper (COVID-19) only playing sparingly in this one, Gallup operated as the WR2 on the Cowboys offense. He'll likely fall back into his WR3 role in Week 14 against the Washington Football Team.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown made two catches in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints. Brown saw three targets and gained a total of 14 yards with his two grabs. With Amari Cooper (COVID-19) playing sparingly and Cedrick Wilson (ankle) out, Brown operated as the third wide receiver in this game. He'll likely make his way back to his minor role in Week 14 with Cooper expected to be able to play in full.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (concussion) returned to the field in Week 13 after missing Week 12 due to a concussion he suffered the previous week. Lamb led the Cowboys in catches, targets, and yards, catching seven of the 13 balls thrown his way for 89 yards. It wasn't a great game in general for the Cowboys passing attack, but Lamb looked healthy and should return to his solid WR1/2 numbers going forward.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz made five catches in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints. Playing on Thursday for the second week in a row, Schultz was targeted five times and caught all five for 43 yards. It wasn't a great game for the Cowboys offense in general, but Schultz did the best with the opportunities he was given. He ended up second on the team in catches and yards and should be able to maintain TE1 numbers throughout the rest of the season.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (knee) struggled his way through another game in Week 13's Thursday Night Football matchup against the New Orleans Saints. "Zeke" ran the ball 13 times for 45 yards and caught two of his three targets for just two more yards. Once again, Elliott was outplayed by Tony Pollard, who looked healthy and explosive while Elliott slogged through, clearly hampered by his knee injury. There were rumors that Dallas could hold Elliott out completely, but they've allowed him to keep playing despite his struggles. He can't be seen as more than a high-floor RB3 until he shows that his injury has improved.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard scored a huge touchdown in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. Pollard ran the ball seven times, gaining 71 yards and scoring a touchdown while adding two catches for three yards. Pollard was actually stuffed for just nine yards on the ground in the first half, but a 58-yard rushing touchdown in the second half made his teammates and fantasy managers happy. Once again, Pollard looked more explosive than injured starter Ezekiel Elliott (knee). If the Cowboys finally decide to actually let "Zeke" sit out a game to rest, Pollard would immediately jump into the RB1 conversation.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown will have a tantalizing matchup in Week 13 against the Vikings. Minnesota is allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing receivers this season, surrendering 14 touchdowns to the position this season. The rookie receiver is averaging six targets a game over his last seven played and 16 different receivers have posted 10-plus fantasy points against the Vikings defense through 12 games. St. Brown earned raves in training camp and has made small progress each week in an abysmal Lions offense. But St. Brown is not worth a gamble in fantasy lineups and yet has an opportunity to flash on the waiver wire radar moving forward if he can deliver against a vulnerable Vikings secondary.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kalif Raymond could have an opportunity to make some plays in Week 13 against a shaky Vikings secondary. Minnesota is currently allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing receivers and 17 different receivers have posted 50-plus receiving yards against them. Raymond has contributed some solid stat-lines this season but has only 12 targets and 45 receiving yards over his last four games. Raymond will carry an extremely low floor into Week 13's action.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had a mostly disappointing Week 13 performance in a win against the New Orleans Saints. Prescott led the Cowboys to the Thursday Night Football victory by completing 26 of his 40 pass attempts for 238 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He "added" negative three yards on three rushing attempts. Prescott was bailed out on an amazing catch by Michael Gallup for his lone touchdown of the night. He's now been under 250 yards in two of the past three Cowboys games, but should have his receivers back at full strength against an exploitable Washington defense in Week 14.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff will have a favorable matchup in Week 13, going up against a Vikings defense that is allowing the seventh most fantasy points to opposing passers this season. Minnesota has allowed 11 passing touchdowns over their last five games but Goff has thrown for only 10 touchdowns all season through 10 games played. Goff is averaging only 169 passing yards a game over his last three played and may be without the teams most dynamic offensive weapon D'Andre Swift. It's possible the embattled Goff could post a positive line yardage wise but has only three touchdown passes over his last six games. It would not be wise to trust Goff in Week 13, even in two-quarterback formats.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith managed only two receptions for 15 yards on seven targets in Thursday's loss to Dallas. Smith's production has dipped in the last two weeks as he has posted 31 yards or below in the last two contests after getting at least 44 yards in all three contests prior to that. The WR hasn't shown consistency this year and he's only a flex play at best if the matchup is favorable.
Detroit Lions T.J. Hockenson will face a Vikings defense in Week 13 that is allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. The preseason hype regarding a breakout season for Hockenson has evaporated as the talented tight end's fantasy value continues to plummet. Hockenson found the end zone on Thanksgiving but has amassed only 86 receiving yards over his last three games. The Lions could attempt to feature Hockenson more with running back D'Andre Swift on track to miss this matchup but the Vikings have allowed only one touchdown to the tight end position all season. Hockenson could once again struggle to post TE1-type numbers this weekend.
New Orleans Saints tight end Nick Vannett finished with three receptions for 48 yards on four targets in Thursday's loss to Dallas. Vannett will be seeing a larger role going forward with Adam Trautman (MCL) currently out. The TE managed only one reception for 11 yards and a score last week so he did much better this week. Nevertheless, he will need to show consistency before he can be considered a streaming option in fantasy.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney is trending towards continuing his role as the teams lead receiver in Week 13 against the Cardinals. With teammate Allen Robinson II missing practice once again Thursday, Mooney should lead the team again in targets in the vertical passing game. But there is a tough test in front of him against a Cardinals defense that is allowing the 10th fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers. Arizona has been solid limiting downfield plays, a place where Mooney has thrived en route to racking up 10 receptions for 244 yards over the last two weeks. Mooney's value will be maximized in full-PPR formats, even with the uncertainty at the quarterback position heading into the weekend.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II recorded 10 carries for 28 yards and one reception for -2 yards on two targets in Thursday's loss to the Cowboys. Even with fellow backfield mate Alvin Kamara (knee) out, Ingram struggled on Thursday. In five games with New Orleans this season, the 31-year-old has only recorded more than 50 rushing yards once. Ingram is only a secondary option in fantasy at this point given he hasn't posted excellent numbers in the rushing or passing game consistently.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Deonte Harris finished with four receptions for a season-high 96 yards and a score on eight targets in Thursday's loss to Dallas. Harris had his best performance of the year though 70 of his 96 yards came on his touchdown catch. The WR has been somewhat of a frustrating fantasy option this season given his up-and-down weeks. In the two weeks prior to Week 13, Harris had a combined 20 yards in two contests. It will be hard to trust the 23-year-old on a weekly basis given his inconsistency, so it's best to only consider him a flex play at best in favorable matchups going forward.
Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery will go up against a Cardinals defense in Week 13 that is allowing the ninth fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Arizona was terrorized by the Panthers Christian McCaffrey in Week 10 but have allowed only four total touchdowns to the running back position all season. The Bears leaned on 39 pass attempts from quarterback Andy Dalton on Thanksgiving but would be wise to find a way to generate more touches for Montgomery. Touchdowns and yards have been tough for Montgomery from a fantasy perspective this season but is averaging 16.14 carries this season. Montgomery will represent low-end RB2 value for Week 13.