We're officially past the halfway point of the NFL season, meaning we are also heading into the home stretch of the fantasy campaign.

If you're in the cellar of your league, then it's probably time to take things a little less seriously, maybe find ways to have some fun with your lineup.

But if you're still firmly in the mix, then you can ill afford to make bad decisions as to which players to slot into the starting spots.

As always, Stats Perform is here to provide a helping hand with a look at four offensive players and a defense worthy of selection in Week 10.

 

Quarterback: Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Do not let the Chiefs' performance against the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers fool you.

Yes, the Chiefs have improved somewhat on defense of late, but they are still one of the league's worst at defending the pass.

They have given up 7.49 yards per pass play this season, while the Raiders are fifth in yards per pass play on offense (7.40).

No quarterback in the NFL has attempted more passes of 21 air yards or more than Carr (41), and he is averaging 16.4 yards per attempt on those throws.

Motivated to bounce back and claim a key win in the division after a shock loss to the New York Giants, expect Carr to be aggressive and, crucially, successful in attacking a vulnerable opponent.

Running Back: James Conner, Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers

Conner leads the NFL in touchdowns with 11 after his hat-trick in the Cardinals' win over the San Francisco 49ers last week.

He will likely get the bulk of the workload in the run game for at least the next few weeks, Chase Edmonds having gone down with an ankle injury at San Francisco.

His next assignment is a Panthers defense that has given up 100 yards rushing in three of their past four games. Back him to produce and find the endzone again at home.

Wide Receiver: Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team

Back off the bye and ready to mount a charge for the one seed in the NFC, the Bucs could hardly ask for a better opponent.

Washington's pass defense has conceded 109 plays of 10 yards or more this season. Only the Indianapolis Colts (110) and Miami Dolphins (112) have been more generous in that regard.

Leading Tampa Bay with 69 targets so far this season and with Antonio Brown unlikely to feature, Godwin is the top candidate to be the latest wideout to capitalise significantly on Washington's unexpected defensive frailties.

Tight End: Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions

Freiermuth may be the answer to fantasy managers' prayers when it comes to the famously top-heavy tight end position.

He has emerged as a key weapon for Ben Roethlisberger in recent weeks, scoring three touchdowns in his past two games.

A matchup with a Detroit defense giving up the most yards per pass play in the NFL (8.28) could provide a recipe for a career day.

Defense: Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots

The Browns defense did an excellent job frustrating Joe Burrow and Co. in their thumping win over the Cincinnati Bengals last week.

This week, they get a favourable matchup in the form of the Patriots. Yes, the Pats are 5-4, but they rank 20th in yards per play (5.46), are tied sixth for the most giveaways (14) and lead the league with 60 negative plays on offense.

Look for Cleveland's defense to enjoy another successful day on the road.

Kliff Kingsbury conceded James Conner is performing way beyond his expectations after the running back helped an undermanned Arizona Cardinals power past the San Francisco 49ers.

The Cardinals were anticipated to face an uphill battle in Week 9 as star quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins were ruled out through injury.

Also missing receiver A.J. Green (reserve/COVID-19 list) and with defensive lineman J.J. Watt on injured reserve, Arizona refused to let their plethora of absences condemn them to a damaging defeat in the NFC playoff race.

Instead, the Cardinals have the best record in the NFL after moving to 8-1 with a convincing 31-17 road victory.

Key to the win was Conner, who now leads the NFL with 11 total touchdowns after scoring three against the Niners in a game that saw him finish with 173 yards from scrimmage.

Signed in April after a largely unsuccessful stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Conner has served as one of the more astute acquisitions of the NFL offseason, with the display he produced after Chase Edmonds' injury forced him to take the bulk of the workload serving as emphatic evidence of that status.

"I thought he was more of a downhill, power back just watching from afar," Kingsbury said after the game.

"Then we got him here, and he made some spectacular catches in training camp, with his quick twitches and routes.

"He's been above-and-beyond anything any of us could've expected."

Veteran backup Colt McCoy averaged 9.58 yards per attempt in relief of Murray and credited the MVP contender and the talent around him as he enjoyed an efficient day few outside of Arizona will have envisioned.

"If I didn't think I could still play, I wouldn't be playing," McCoy said. "But I also understand my role.

"There is not a bigger fan of Kyler Murray than me right now. I've learned a lot from him in my short time here, and he's very special.

"I'm not Kyler Murray… Me, I'm benefiting from being on a great team."

The Green Bay Packers' first look at life without Aaron Rodgers was not a pleasant one, as their offence sputtered with backup quarterback Jordan Love at the helm and the Kansas City Chiefs held on for a 13-7 victory. 

The Packers (7-2) had averaged 27 points during the seven-game winning streak that ended on Sunday after reigning MVP Rodgers missed the game following a positive coronavirus test during the week. 

The visitors did not get on the scoreboard until Love hit Allen Lazard for a 20-yard touchdown pass with five minutes remaining for his first career NFL TD.

That gave Green Bay some hope after their previous drive had ended with L'Jarius Sneed picking off a Love pass on Kansas City's five-yard line, but the Packers ran out of time. 

While the Chiefs (5-4) were not about to complain about the victory that got them back over .500, their season-long concerns about their offence continued as Patrick Mahomes had another unimpressive game. 

Former league MVP Mahomes completed 20 of 37 passes for just 166 yards but avoided throwing an interception for the first time since the season opener. His 54.1 completion percentage was his worst in a regular-season game since completing 51.2 per cent in a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 5 last season. 

 

Cardinals cruise past 49ers without Murray

The other red-hot team playing without their star quarterback fared better, as the Arizona Cardinals rolled to a 31-17 defeat of the San Francisco 49ers despite Kyler Murray's absence through an ankle injury. 

Veteran Colt McCoy stepped in for the Cardinals and completed 22 of 26 passes for 249 yards, while James Conner rushed for 93 yards and a pair of scores as Arizona improved to 8-1. 

Three turnovers proved critical for San Francisco (3-5) as the 49ers lost two fumbles in the first half and had trouble sustaining drives throughout the game, with only 23:13 of possession compared to 36:47 for Arizona. 

Jimmy Garoppolo completed 28 of 40 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for San Francisco. 

In Philadelphia, Dustin Hopkins' 29-yard field goal with two seconds to play gave the Los Angeles Chargers (5-3) a 27-24 victory over the Eagles (3-6). 

Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins are both game-time decisions for the Arizona Cardinals, head coach Kliff Kingsbury has confirmed.

Arizona travel to play NFC West rivals the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, looking to bounce back from suffering their first loss of the year against the Green Bay Packers.

Murray threw multiple picks and no touchdowns in a game for the first time in his career as Arizona lost 24-21 to the Packers, ending the only perfect record left in the NFL.

The Cardinals (7-1) could be without their starting quarterback and leading wide receiver on the road against the Niners.

Murray (ankle) and Hopkins (hamstring) both missed the open section of practice on Friday, having also not been involved on Wednesday or Thursday.

"He is progressing but we will see how he feels Sunday and go from there," Kingsbury said about Murray.

"I know he wants to play. He knows how important a divisional game is [but] we are not going to put him out there if he can't function.

"I don't know if [Hopkins] will go full speed or not."

Arizona (7-1) got a 17-10 win at home over San Francisco (3-4) this season, but that was the only game in which they have not scored at least 21 points this year. 

Murray has had a spectacular year so far, putting himself in the MVP conversation.

The third-year QB ranks second for completion percentage (72.7) and has 17 touchdown passes to seven interceptions, as well as a further three scores on the ground.

Murray's 24 passing plays of 25-plus yards are tied for the most in the NFL with Tom Brady, and he leads an efficient offense which has led him to the fourth-highest passer rating (110.4) in 2021.

Veteran backup Colt McCoy will play if Murray is unable to take the field.

Hopkins leads the team in catches (35) and receiving yards (486), but at 60.8 yards per game is operating well below his production from last season (87.9) amid his injury struggles.

The Cardinals also put wide receiver A.J. Green on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week.

The 49ers, meanwhile, beat the Bears 33-22 in Chicago last week, snapping a four-game losing streak and scoring their most points since a 41-33 win over the Detroit Lions in Week 1. 

In an unusual sequence of results since the start of last season, the Niners are 1-10 at home and 8-4 on the road. 

The Green Bay Packers head into Week 9 with a 7-1 record, though coach Matt LaFleur will have to figure out a way past the Kansas City Chiefs without his star quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers – who has thrown for 1,894 yards and made 17 touchdown passes this season – will miss his first Packers game since 2017 after testing positive for COVID-19.

The Arizona Cardinals are also now at 7-1 after losing their unbeaten record with a defeat to the Packers last week, and will be looking to get back to winning ways against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Los Angeles Rams are the only other team in the NFL that sits at 7-1 going into Week 9, and are set for a fascinating contest with the 6-2 Tennessee Titans.

 

Green Bay Packers (7-1) @ Kansas City Chiefs (4-4)

Overcoming Rodgers' absence will be no easy feat for Green Bay. Since the 37-year-old took over as the starter in 2008, the Packers are 133-64-1 with him, and 6-11-1 without.

The Packers knocked off the last unbeaten team in Week 8 with a 24-21 win at Arizona and are now on a seven-game winning streak, their longest within a single season since going 13-0 in 2011 on their way to a 15-1 record. Their only loss that season came in Kansas City.

The Chiefs hold a 7-4-1 record over Green Bay, but the Packers have won three of the last four meetings. They most recently played in Week 8 in 2019, with the Packers triumphing 31-24 at Arrowhead. Kansas City went 10-1 following that game on their way to winning the Super Bowl.

Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to that championship and since he took over as the starting quarterback in 2018, Kansas City have had just six games with 20 or fewer points, including the postseason. Three of those games have come this season (Weeks 5, 7 and 8).

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill had 12 receptions in the Chiefs' 20-17 win against the Giants on Monday, one shy of tying a career high (set in Week 12, 2020 at Tampa Bay). The Chiefs are 15-2 (regular and postseason) when Hill has at least eight receptions.

Arizona Cardinals (7-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (3-4)

This will be the second meeting in the NFC West for these two teams this season, with Arizona already enjoying a 17-10 home win over San Francisco in Week 5. It is, though, the only game in which the Cardinals have not scored at least 21 points this year. The Cardinals have won five of their last six road games against the Niners, with three of those wins coming by at least 10 points.

The 24 points scored against the Cardinals by the Packers in Week 8 in their first loss of the campaign was the second most allowed by Arizona this season (33 against Minnesota in Week 2). Their average of 17.3 points allowed per game ranks third in the NFL.

San Francisco beat the Chicago Bears 33-22 last week, breaking a four-game losing streak and scoring their most points since a 41-33 win over the Detroit Lions in Week 1. Since the start of last season, the Niners are 1-10 at home and 8-4 on the road.

Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 322 yards and ran for two touchdowns in Chicago. The only 49ers player with more passing yards in a game while also rushing for multiple scores is Steve Young, who had games with 355 yards (1994), 348 (1991) and 331 (1998).

Tennessee Titans (6-2) @ Los Angeles Rams (7-1)

Including their win in Super Bowl XXXIV, the Rams have an all-time record of 8-5 against the Titans/Oilers franchise. The Titans' last game at the Rams in southern California came in Week 9, 1990, which saw a 17-13 Rams win over the then-Oilers in Anaheim.

Tennessee beat the Indianapolis Colts 34-31 in overtime last Sunday. It was their third overtime game this year, tying the franchise record for most overtime games in a single season (1983).

The Rams, meanwhile, defeated the Houston Texans 38-22 after leading 38-0 heading into the fourth quarter. They are one of two teams (along with the Dallas Cowboys) to score at least 20 points in every game this season.

Cooper Kupp had 115 receiving yards and a touchdown in that win in Houston, his third straight 100-yard game. Kupp has 10 touchdown catches from the first eight games of the season, second in Rams history only to Elroy Hirsch (12 TDs in 1951).

Elsewhere...

The New England Patriots travel to Carolina to face the Panthers on Sunday, where Mac Jones is set to make history. The rookie quarterback has 1,997 passing yards in his eight games in the NFL so far. Drew Bledsoe currently holds the record for fewest games needed to reach 2,000 passing yards with the Patriots (11). Butch Songin and Tom Brady managed it in 12 games.

The Minnesota Vikings will be hoping to end Lamar Jackson's impressive record against NFC teams. The Baltimore Ravens quarterback is 11-0 all-time as a starter in those meets, throwing for 1,901 yards and 17 touchdowns while running for 995 yards with six scores. 

Despite differing seasons, it could be a close contest in Jacksonville. Including the playoffs, the Bills (5-2) and Jaguars (1-6) have split eight all-time encounters when the Jags are the home team, with both teams scoring exactly 161 points. 

A clash in the AFC North sees the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) host the Cleveland Browns (4-4), where Joe Burrow will be trying to become the first quarterback in Bengals history to throw three or more touchdown passes in four straight games. Andy Dalton also had three straight games of three or more TD passes in October 2013.

The Arizona Cardinals are set to make a late decision on whether Kyler Murray plays in a Week 9 showdown with the San Francisco 49ers.

Quarterback Murray missed the opening part of practice on Wednesday due to an ankle injury as the Cardinals stepped up their preparation to face the Niners at Levi's Stadium this weekend.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury had stated that MVP contender Murray was day-to-day as he nurses a sprain of his left ankle, having limped off the field following the defeat to the Green Bay Packers last Thursday.

Kingsbury said after practice that the signal-caller is "progressing" ahead of Sunday's showdown with a 3-4 San Francisco team and a game-time decision is likely to be made.

Wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green were also absent from practice along with running back Jonathan Ward.

There was more positive news on center Rodney Hudson, offensive lineman Max Garcia and defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence, who all returned to practice.

Linebacker Zaven Collins also recovered from a shoulder injury to take part in practice.

NFC West leaders the Cardinals are 7-1 after suffering their first loss of the season, going down 24-21 to the Packers.

Murray threw multiple picks and no touchdowns in a game for the first time in his career as Arizona lost the only perfect record in the NFL.

 

The Arizona Cardinals acknowledged the impact of DeAndre Hopkins' injury-affected outing against the Green Bay Packers in their first defeat of the year, but Kyler Murray said his team should still have played better.

The Cardinals came into Thursday night's huge game against the Packers looking to stretch their unbeaten start to 8-0 – a new franchise record.

Instead, Arizona went down 24-21 to Green Bay, who also improved to 7-1.

A last-gasp Murray interception – his second of the night – decided the game, but the earlier absence of wide receiver Hopkins had restricted the Cards to that point.

Having been dealing with a hamstring injury heading into the Packers game, Hopkins went out for more than two quarters due to the same issue.

Hopkins caught both of his targets for two first downs and 66 yards, but he had averaged 6.7 targets and 4.7 receptions per game throughout the Cardinals' winning run.

The former Houston Texans wideout failed to add to his seven season touchdowns, with Arizona's three scores all coming across the ground.

Unable to look to Hopkins as often as he would like, quarterback Murray threw multiple picks and no TDs in a game for the first time in his career.

But the Packers were also without their elite WR Davante Adams, along with number two option Allen Lazard, and Aaron Rodgers was still able to lead Green Bay to victory.

Murray was reluctant to make excuses, saying: "Obviously, if you take the best receiver in the game out [Hopkins], it makes it a little tough, but I have confidence in everybody out there.

"I don’t want to make it about that. It wasn’t about that. We just didn't play up to our standards."

Coach Kliff Kingsbury was willing to highlight Hopkins' absence, however.

"He's pretty good," he said. "I mean, that's a big part of our offense having that guy."

Crucially, the Cardinals were also missing players on defense. Corey Peters is out with COVID-19 and Rashard Lawrence has a calf injury, while Zaven Collins went out with a shoulder injury late in the first half.

J.J. Watt was surely the team's biggest miss, though, after his own shoulder injury that is set to end his season.

"We've got to get Rashard and Corey Peters back," Kingsbury said. "Obviously, having those two guys out was not ideal with J.J. going out as well. But you can't replace a presence like that."

Aaron Rodgers declared his love for the Green Bay Packers squad after Rasul Douglas proved the unlikely hero in a stunning win over the Arizona Cardinals.

The short-handed Packers ended the Cardinals' perfect start to the season while extending their winning streak to seven games following a 24-21 victory in the NFL on Thursday.

With 12 seconds remaining, Douglas was on hand to thwart the home team as he snatched the ball in the corner of the end zone from Kyler Murray's pass.

Douglas, who was previously with the Cardinals' practice squad, was only in action in the absence of Jaire Alexander and Kevin King.

"This is why I love this squad," Rodgers told Fox.

"The guy who made the pick was with them for four weeks. He was on the street, we brought him in, he's starting for us.

"He's a great dude and he's really meshed well with our team, and to come up with a play like that with 15 seconds left is incredible."

Rodgers, without wide receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, was 22-of-37 passing for 184 yards as Matt LaFleur's men got the job done in gritty fashion in Arizona.

"This is a scrappy team," Rodgers said. "This is a tough, physical, gritty team.

"I'm so proud of our guys. I'm so proud of our line. I'm having so much fun with these guys.

"We ran the ball well, we knew we could. It was tough in the passing game at times, but [Randall] Cobb came up with a couple big touchdown catches."

The red-hot Green Bay Packers ended the Arizona Cardinals' perfect start to the season while extending their winning streak to seven games following a 24-21 victory in the NFL on Thursday.

Kyler Murray's Cardinals had won seven consecutive games to open the season, but Arizona finally came unstuck against Aaron Rodgers and the high-flying Packers.

Rodgers (22-of-37 passing for 184 yards without an interception) threw two touchdown passes to Randall Cobb as the Packers held on to beat the Cardinals – playing for the first time without star defensive end JJ Watt – after Murray's stunning last-gasp interception.

Chase Edmonds' 11-yard run gave the Cardinals a first-quarter lead – the Arizona star had entered Week 8 with 397 rushing yards this season, the most by any player in the NFL without a rushing TD.

Rodgers and the Packers took control from that point as Jones' second-quarter TD run and Green Bay's superstar quarterback Rodgers' pass to Cobb in the third quarter put the visitors ahead 17-7.

James Conner did strike before the end of the third to close the gap to three points, though the Rodgers-Cobb combination struck again early in the fourth to make it 24-14 in the Packers' favour.

Conner's second rushing touchdown set up a thrilling finish but as the Cardinals attempted to rally to their eighth straight victory, Murray (22-of-33 passing for 274 yards, no TDs and two interceptions) threw an interception on second-and-goal with 12 seconds remaining – Rasul Douglas on hand to snatch the ball in the corner of the end zone.

Seven weeks of hard evidence suggest that the Green Bay Packers' Thursday Night Football clash with the Arizona Cardinals should be one of the games of the year.

The 6-1 Packers travel to face the 7-0 Cardinals for a meeting of two teams to have emerged as clear frontrunners for the top seed in the NFC playoffs and who boast a combined winning percentage of 92.9.

That is the best combined winning percentage for a game in Week 8 or later played on a Thursday since the 11-0 Chicago Bears played at the 10-1 Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day, 1934. 

Yet recent history and misfortune on the side of the Packers may see what many hoped would be a fascinating spectacle fail to live up to its billing.

Including the playoffs, the Cardinals have won each of their last three games against Green Bay, and the contrast in the talent the two offenses will have available means the most likely outcome is that streak continuing in the desert.

 

Packers lacking firepower

The Packers are set to be without their top offensive weapon on Thursday after Davante Adams was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Adams needed to provide two negative tests, 24 hours apart, and be asymptomatic for 48 hours to be permitted to play against Arizona. He has reportedly not travelled with Green Bay and is not expected to play, leaving the Packers minus arguably the most complete receiver in the NFL, one who is maintaining the remarkable All-Pro standard he produced last season.

Adams is third in the NFL in receiving yards with 744. He has registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on 65.8 per cent of his targets. That is not too far above the average of 60.9 per cent, however, Adams leads receivers with at least 25 targets in burn yards per route with 5.1.

In other words, when Adams does win his matchup, he makes the most of it and creates significant separation, reflecting his reputation as one of the NFL's elite route-runners.

His absence will leave a massive void, one that will be more apparent because of the loss of the lead candidate to fill it.

Allen Lazard was placed on the COVID-19 list on Wednesday as a close contact of a person to have tested positive.

Unvaccinated, Lazard is out for five days, robbing the Packers of a receiver with a 71.4 burn percentage who has produced a big play on 44.3 per cent of his targets.

Without Adams and Lazard, the Packers are light on receiving threats to legitimately scare a Cardinals defense ranked second in yards per pass play allowed.

Running back Aaron Jones is Green Bay's second most prolific pass-catcher behind Davante Adams with 26 receptions. He may need to take on more of the receiving workload this week, though the Packers are hoping Marquez Valdes-Scantling can return from a hamstring injury and provide a spark with his downfield speed.

However, Valdes-Scantling's burn percentage of 43.8 from 16 targets so far this season indicates he may find it tough to lift a depleted group. Yet, regardless of whether it comes from Valdes-Scantling, Jones or tight ends Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis, Green Bay will likely require a significant contribution from an unlikely source to keep pace with a passing attack that is loaded by comparison.

Deck stacked for MVP contender Murray

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is firmly in the MVP race and, while that is in large part down to his own remarkable accuracy – 83.3 per cent of his attempts have been well thrown, the best ratio among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts – and playmaking ability, a lot of credit has to be attributed to the stellar performances of several receivers.

Three-time first-team All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins has unsurprisingly hit the ground running in 2021, posting a burn percentage of 80, the highest ratio among receivers with a minimum of 25 targets, and producing a big play on 45.7 per cent of his targets.

Christian Kirk, with a burn percentage of 75 and a big play rate of 38.8 per cent, is not far behind while veteran A.J. Green (35.6 per cent big play rate) has been unexpectedly rejuvenated after trading Cincinnati for Arizona.

The X-factor, however, is rookie Rondale Moore, whose speed out of the backfield has added another dimension to Kliff Kingsbury's offense.

Moore's average depth of target is just 2.3 yards, the lowest in the NFL (min. 10 targets), yet Moore is averaging 3.3 burn yards per route, above the average of 2.5, illustrating his effectiveness in the quick game with his ability to beat defenders with both speed and elusiveness.

His presence has allowed Kingsbury to get more creative in the deployment of his offensive personnel, using the threat of Murray and Moore as runners to his significant advantage.

That particular string is not one the Packers have in their bow and, despite an impressive performance against the Washington Football Team in Week 7, their defense appears ill-equipped to deal with an offense that also saw tight end Zach Ertz score on his debut last week.

No case for Green Bay’s defense

The numbers for the Packers on the defensive side of the ball are impressive in terms of limiting the efficiency of their opponents.

Indeed, Green Bay's defense is 10th in the NFL in opponent yards per play allowed (5.38), while the Packers have given up only 19 plays of 20 yards or more, the third-fewest in the league.

But the Packers' defensive absences are such that it will be a tough ask for them to slow down a potent Cardinals attack.

Jaire Alexander remains out with a shoulder injury, leaving the Packers bereft of his versatility to play as a starting outside corner and at the 'star' position on the inside.

Rookie Eric Stokes has not been a liability in coverage, however, he is allowing 2.04 burn yards per snap (the league average for corners is 2.01) and, minus Alexander's services, the Packers do not have a cornerback capable of consistently locking down his opposing receiver.

Only six interior defensive linemen have defeated a blocker on a pressure more often than Kenny Clark (22), but the Packers' defensive tackle is lacking support off the edge, with Za'Darius Smith a long-term absentee following back surgery and Preston Smith questionable for Thursday due to an oblique issue.

Of quarterbacks with 25 attempts under pressure, Murray's well-thrown percentage in those scenarios of 81 is second only to Mac Jones (81.2).

The Packers do not have the resources up front to make his performance under duress drastically worse nor do they have the resources in the defensive backfield to keep all the Cardinals' weapons under wraps.

With their own offensive arsenal severely reduced, it may take a vintage Rodgers performance of the highest order for the Packers to avoid enduring another frightful experience in Arizona.

J.J. Watt has been ruled out of the Arizona Cardinals' Thursday night game against NFC rivals the Green Bay Packers with a shoulder injury.

The 7-0 Cards face a significant test against the 6-1 Packers at State Farm Stadium and will be without their star defensive end.

Watt, who joined Arizona ahead of this season after securing his release from the Houston Texans, has started all seven games so far in 2021.

He has 10 tackles, including five for a loss, one sack and 10 quarterback hits, helping the Cardinals to tie their best start to a season.

But Watt did not participate in the team's only practice of this week before taking on Green Bay and will not be involved.

The Arizona defense is at least boosted by the return of Chandler Jones from the COVID list.

Jones ranks fifth for QB hits this year with 14; Watt is tied 14th on the same list.

In Watt's absence, Jones will aim to disrupt Aaron Rodgers, who is missing two top offensive weapons in Davante Adams (52 catches, 744 yards, three touchdowns) and Allen Lazard (15 catches, 184 yards, two TDs), both due to COVID.

Arizona do have their own issues in the receiver room, however. DeAndre Hopkins (33 catches, 420 yards, seven TDs) is listed as questionable.

The Green Bay Packers have placed another wide receiver, Allen Lazard, on the reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning he will miss their primetime clash with the Arizona Cardinals.

Lazard follows star wideout Davante Adams in being placed on the list for the 6-1 Packers ahead of their meeting with the 7-0 Cardinals on Thursday.

Adams, who is vaccinated, would be able to play if he shows no symptoms of the virus and returns two negative results, with a spacing of at least 24 hours between each test.

However, Lazard is reportedly unvaccinated and is a close contact of a person who tested positive. As a result, he is out for five days.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has connected with Lazard for 15 completions this season for 184 yards and two touchdowns.

Green Bay could already be without defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who has tested positive for coronavirus, for the Week 8 contest.

Barry is vaccinated, meaning he will be able to resume contact with the team once he has recorded successive negative tests. However, that is not expected to happen before Thursday and Adams faces a similarly tight timeline.

While they will be without Lazard, the Packers are hopeful Marquez Valdes-Scantling could boost their receiving corps by returning from a hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined since the Week 3 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

However, it appears likely Rodgers will be playing with a depleted group of pass-catchers as he looks to guide the Packers to a potentially crucial win in the battle for NFC playoff positioning.

Davante Adams could miss the Green Bay Packers' meeting with the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday after being placed onto the team's COVID-19 list.

Adams has been in exceptional form for the Packers this season, who moved onto 6-1 with a 24-10 win over the Washington Football Team on Sunday.

He scored one of the Packers' three touchdowns and finished the game a team-high 76 receiving yards. 

The wide receiver has gone over for three TDs so far in 2021, tallying up 744 receiving yards in total and recording 52 receptions.

However, there is now a big chance the 28-year-old may be out against the 7-0 Cardinals.

Green Bay could already be without defensive coordinator Joe Barry for the game in Arizona, with the coach having tested positive for coronavirus.

Barry is vaccinated, meaning he will be able to resume contact with the team once he has recorded successive negative tests. However, that is not expected to happen before Thursday and it seems Adams is in a similar position.

Per agreed-upon NFL-NFLPA policy, clubs are not permitted to comment on a player's medical status. If a player is placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, they have either tested positive for coronavirus or have been in close contact with an infected person or persons.

According to ESPN, Adams will be able to play on Thursday if he is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, shows no symptoms of the virus and returns two negative results, with a spacing of at least 24 hours between each test.

The Athletic reported that Adams is fully vaccinated, though there are still several hurdles the wide receiver would have to overcome in order to be available. 

Thursday's game sees the top sides in the NFC West and NFC North meet. Arizona and Green Bay have not played against each other since 2018, when the Cardinals triumphed 20-17.

Adams scored a touchdown in that game, finishing with eight receptions and 93 receiving yards.

It says a lot about how far the flawless Arizona Cardinals have come that they found plenty to critique even after a 31-5 victory over the Houston Texans.

At 7-0 after routing the Texans on Sunday, the Cardinals are the NFL's lone unbeaten team and are off to their best start since 1974. 

For a team that have not won more than eight games in a season since their last trip to the playoffs in 2015, the Cardinals are brimming with confidence heading into a Thursday game against the 6-1 Green Bay Packers.

While quarterback Kyler Murray said he "wasn't too concerned" when the Cardinals came up empty on their first three offensive possessions – which included Arizona star being caught in the end zone for a safety – he noted they cannot make a habit of it. 

"I don't know why, maybe came out a little lax," Murray told a news conference. "I just know we've got to be better, because you get beat if you come out too slow. Sometimes you may not be able to catch up.

"So for us, I know we're better than what we put out there today. We kind of clicked, for the most part, during the middle of game but [Houston] got after us today. I don't want to take anything away from them. Obviously we won by large lead but for the most part offensively, I think, we can be a lot better."

Murray followed up that safety by leading a 14-play touchdown drive that got the Cardinals on the scoreboard and they did not look back from there, leading 17-5 at the half before tacking on two more TDs after the interval. 

Arizona's slow start may also have been attributable to head coach Kliff Kingsbury's return to the sidelines after missing the previous game against the Cleveland Browns following a positive COVID-19 test. 

While the Cardinals had no trouble in that 37-14 blowout, Kingsbury said it took him a while to find his rhythm against the Texans after missing the entire week of practice before he was cleared to coach in the game on Sunday. 

"I felt a little disconnected," he said. "I didn't feel as into the game as I usually am, just showing up on game day, but the players are awesome, great energy and made me feel very welcome to be back."

Murray said he did not pick up on his coach's discomfort but noted that it did not seem to be detrimental. 

"I'm sure he probably felt a little bit off, but we put up 31 today, defence played great," Murray said. "It was a great team win so for him to feel awkward or whatever and then we still put up 31 is a good job and you know we've got to keep it going because the Packers are coming in as a great team."

In his first game with the Cardinals after being acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles, Zach Ertz caught a 47-yard touchdown from Murray – his longest TD of his career.

Ertz also became the first player in NFL history with a receiving touchdown in consecutive weeks for two different teams.

Tom Brady made history once again as Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rolled past the Chicago Bears 38-3 in NFL action Sunday. 

With a nine-yard strike to Mike Evans in the closing seconds of the first quarter, Brady became the first NFL quarterback to throw 600 touchdown passes.

The 44-year-old – 20-of-36 passing for 211 yards – would finish the game with 602 for his career, all four of his TD tosses going for fewer than 10 yards and three of them landing in Evans' hands. 

Blaine Gabbert took over at quarterback for Brady midway through the fourth quarter with the game well in hand as the Buccaneers improved to 6-1. 

Brady's opposite number, Bears rookie QB Justin Fields, had a brutal day as he was sacked four times and threw three interceptions as Chicago failed to find the end zone. 

Stafford, Rams survive Lions scare

The matchup between Super Bowl contenders the Los Angeles Rams and the winless Detroit Lions finished with the expected result, but the Rams' 28-19 win was much closer than anticipated. 

The Rams (6-1) trailed 19-17 entering the fourth quarter and needed a five-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp early in the period to take the lead and a 47-yard Matt Gay field goal with just over a minute to play to seal the win. 

Stafford completed 28 of 41 passes for 334 yards and three TDs against the team he played for in the first 12 years of his career, while former Rams QB Jared Goff threw a pair of costly interceptions for the Lions (0-7).

Kupp became the first player in the Super Bowl era to have 800-plus receiving yards and nine-plus receiving touchdowns in his team's first seven games of a season.

While the Lions remained the only winless team in the league after Week 7, the Arizona Cardinals (7-0) maintained their status as the lone team with a perfect record, routing the Houston Texans 31-5 behind three TD passes by Kyler Murray. 

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