At the start of the season it looked like Minnesota would become a world beater even with the losses of Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater. After starting out undefeated through five weeks, the team now is looking to stop a four game skid. Arizona meanwhile has a chance to get into serious talks among the wild card contenders in the NFC.
Minnesota’s Tackle Problem
It would be easier to list out the players Minnesota has healthy on the offensive line going into this game compared to all the players they have ruled out. Right now the team is down to their third string left tackle with Jake Long now injuring his Achilles tendon last week in the loss against the Redskins and they won’t be getting Matt Kalil back any time soon. The right tackle slot has been taken up by T.J. Clemmings as well since the offseason pickup of Andre Smith was made null and void after he sustained a season ending injury earlier in the year. Already this year Bradford has been taken down for a sack 24 times with 16 of those coming in just the four losses the team has suffered through this year. Chicago and Philadelphia both brought the house it seemed on every play against the Vikings as they dragged down the quarterback 5 and 6 times respectively. Arizona would be wise to emulate this strategy themselves and send a few blitz packages and stunts off the edge to try and get the same kind of results against the less than mobile Bradford.
Patching Up the DB Squad
The Cardinals used to have one of the deeper defensive backfields in the game today and they are certainly being forced to show it now. Tyrann Mathieu is still considered a questionable play going into this game after battering his shoulder a bit a few weeks ago. Deone Bucannon has also been considered a shaky start for Arizona with the ankle injury he suffered last week. The lack of health at the safety position has forced the Cardinals into a lot of man to man coverage set ups and while Patrick Peterson is more than capable of handling the tougher matchups in the NFL today, Marcus Cooper and Justin Bethel are both more than a little shaky for long stretches of time on their own little islands. Bucannon’s flexibility as both linebacker and coverage safety has made him a tough piece for defenses to figure out what he is doing on a play to play basis. Losing out on the kind of hybrid play he is limits the amount of plays the defense can run to confuse their opponents. If Mathieu and Bucannon play, look to see if Minnesota tests out their respective injuries to see just how ready they are for game time.
Snack Time For the Purple People Eaters
The Vikings defense really hasn’t been considered a dominant unit since the days of Bud Grant, Jim Marshall, Paul Krause and the rest of the dominant defenses that were around in the 60’s and 70’s. The group of Mike Zimmer, Brian Robinson and Harrison Smith have a ways to go to be in the same sentence as those legends but this season is a good starting point. Currently the team sports the best points per game average for a defense with only 16.9 points a game and rank in the top ten of all major yardage categories. One of their best traits however is their ability to take the ball away. A lot of thanks goes out to the offense for holding on to the ball as well as they have up to this point, but the +12 turnover ratio is one of the best in the league. Going into the game, the Cardinals sit at a neutral 0 in that same category. Palmer and the rest of the offense will have to do their best not to give up possessions, as that could be the only way Minnesota wins this game. The offense for the Vikings has been abysmal during this losing streak, and if Arizona keeps their opportunities minimal they should be able to outpace Zimmer’s team.
Prediction: Arizona – 22 Minnesota – 10
The game will kick off from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis this Sunday at 11:00 AM on FOX for those wanting to catch the action live.