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Facing Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers a Challenge

One of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history strolls into State Farm Stadium on Thursday.

Building up to be one of the biggest games of the season, a Thursday Night Football meeting between the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers features two of the league's best quarterbacks in Kyler Murray and Aaron Rodgers. 

The game will likely feature playoff implications down the road, as both teams are in prime position to make a run deep into the postseason. 

The Cardinals (16.3) lead the league in points allowed per game, while only allowing 316.7 yards per game, good enough for fourth in the NFL. 

Yet, numbers can often be thrown out the window when preparing for a quarterback such as Rodgers, as defensive coordinator Vance Joseph spoke to media members on Tuesday and not surprisingly noted that the team has its hands full.

Coaches Talk About Rodgers

"Aaron Rodgers is so different because he is a coach with a great arm, so every play he's making audibles off the looks that you give him. So it's hard to pinpoint what to take away because it changes every week, every series and that makes it hard," said Joseph. 

"It's so hard with Aaron because every play he's making audibles. It's second-and-1 shots (down the field), first-and-10 backed up, it's (a) pass. It's empty on second-and-12, it's everywhere. It's gonna be a challenge to match wits with that guy and also make plays on the ball."

Rodgers is expected to be without receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard on Thursday, as both were placed on the reserve/COVID list this week and are likely out for the game. 

Joseph isn't buying any of the talk that suggests Rodgers is weaker without Adams, his top receiving weapon. 

"It won't change much guys, I mean he's missed I think six games with Adams and he's played really good ball," Joseph said. "He's 6-0 (without Adams), he's got 1,700 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, one interception and he's 6-0. I think those guys like Aaron and Tom (Brady), when they don't have their main weapons it falls back on those guys, sometimes it helps them to play an even cleaner game. He's not forced to force the ball to Adams.

"When you have a guy like Adams who's a volume pass-catcher, you can kind of trap him into throwing the ball to Adams some but without Adams, it's going to force Aaron to play a true game and that's sometimes dangerous for us. He's played his best ball without Adams, and again not having Adams, it's not good for them but it's gonna force Aaron to play a cleaner game and history shows he's played good."

Game-planning against a quarterback such as Rodgers, now playing in his 17th season, can be tricky. Joseph admits it can be difficult to prepare for a passer who's seen everything, yet that adds a touch of fun to the challenge. 

He said, "Every look you give him, he has an answer for it. You won't confuse this guy; he's seen it all. So it's our job to give him some look that he hopefully hadn't seen and take him away . . . You won't confuse him for four quarters; he's gonna figure it out. I think it comes down to playing football, and that's the way it should be.

"I love it. And that's why you coach, that's the beauty of coaching. That's my joy on game day, to put our guys in great spots to make plays. And hopefully it works out Thursday. But again, a guy like Aaron, he's seen it all, so doing things right and having enough looks to keep it fair, that's important."

When Rodgers won't be on the field, Murray and the rest of the Cardinals will. It's a game expected to turn into a shootout, as both offenses have the ability to put up 40 points on any given week. 

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Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Rodgers truly excels when the play breaks down.

"You know, more than anything, just the second phase of plays (is what impresses him the most). He's as good as anybody I've ever seen at creating, on the scramble drill, particularly down in the red zone. He buys time, he has a great feel in the pocket and moves around. He's perfected it down there," Kingsbury said Monday. 

"And now you see a ton of people making big plays off of it, but he was kind of one of the first ones I noticed that consistently could create off-schedule and in the second phase of the play.

"It's some sleepless nights when you're watching that film."

Players Also Chime In

Murray just might be tuning in to watch Rodgers, considering he was one of his favorite quarterbacks to watch growing up. 

"He's probably my favorite quarterback, (as well as being) one of my favorite quarterbacks to watch," said Murray when asked about Rodgers. 

"His swag, the way he plays the game, what he's done in his career. I admire his game a lot, so first time playing against him, first time probably being able to meet him, it's pretty cool. I'm looking forward to it."

On the Cardinals defense, safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson have the daunting task of trying to contain Rodgers through four quarters. 

"Oh, man, I played against him my, what was it, second year with (former Cardinals head coach Steve) Wilks? (Rodgers is) special, a guy like who can make every single throw inside the pocket, outside the pocket, has a great relationship with his wide receivers, especially, Adams of course, and just a great quarterback," Baker said Tuesday.

"(He's) one of those guys that's probably going to be in the Hall of Fame one day so (I'm) definitely excited to play against him."

Thompson also echoed the praise for Rodgers. 

He said, "It's gonna be tough for us this week. We're gonna have to try to show some different things to him. He's a good quarterback, though. So it's gonna be a tough task for us. But I think if we just do our job and follow the game plan, we'll be fine.

"He's going to be checking everything, making a lot of adjustments. So we're just going to have to be locked in and do our job."

The Cardinals, in all facets of the game, will try to get the best of Rodgers come Thursday night. 

However, it's apparent coaches and even players sharing the field with Rodgers respect his body of work heading into Thursday Night Football.