Game Scout: Cardinals @ Vikings

Ken Whisenhunt (Getty)

The Arizona Cardinals will attempt to snap a three-game losing streak on the road in Minnesota. Look inside for a full game preview.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 10/9/11
SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum Turf

TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin

PREDICTION: Vikings 23-21

KEYS TO THE GAME: Both teams are seeking a rare complete game on both sides of the ball. Just when Arizona's defense stepped up last week - for the most part - the offense stalled on third downs and in the red zone. RB Beanie Wells needs to carry the unit while QB Kevin Kolb goes through some inconsistency in a new offense while facing a defense that thrives on explosive plays. QB Donovan McNabb gets at least one more start for Minnesota. RB Adrian Peterson continues to clamor for a bigger workload, but McNabb has to improve on his 58.6 completion percentage against one of the league's most vulnerable secondaries.

FAST FACTS: The Cardinals are 6-for-26 on third down their past two games. ... Vikings WR Bernard Berrian has been targeted 16 times this season and has two catches.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

CARDINALS

The Cardinals' injury list became considerably longer after practice Wednesday, but the team's health is expected to improve in advance of Sunday's game at Minnesota.

Tight end Todd Heap appears to be the biggest question. He suffered a hamstring strain Wednesday and missed Thursday's practice.

His availability probably won't be determined until Sunday morning, coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

Running back Beanie Wells continues to be limited in practice with a hamstring strain, but he is expected to play. It's questionable, however, if he'll carry the heavy load he did last week: 27 carries for 138 yards. Alfonso Smith is likely to be the backup.

Right tackle Brandon Keith has practiced fully this week after leaving the Giants game last Sunday with a knee injury.

Keith has had swelling in the knee this year and has had it drained regularly. He is healthy enough to play but could be replaced by Jeremy Bridges.

Bridges played well last week in place of Keith, and a change might be made based on performance, not injury.

VIKINGS

The Vikings haven't ruled Antoine Winfield out, but they're bracing for the probability that a neck strain will sideline the starting left cornerback for Sunday's game against the Cardinals at the Metrodome.

"We'll know more (Friday) where he stands," coach Leslie Frazier said after Thursday's practice. "He didn't do anything today. We're going to try and see if he can go (Friday). If not, it'll probably become a game-time decision."

Winfield hurt the neck making a tackle in Sunday's game at Kansas City. He stayed in the game, but has been hurting all week. He didn't practice Wednesday or today.

"He came in Monday pretty stiff in the neck, so we did an MRI and things turned out to be fine there," Frazier said. "But there is something that's creating a stiffness in his neck, and anytime you deal with necks, of course, you're very cautious. He's getting a little bit better, so we'll just see how he is (Friday)."

Frazier said there is nothing wrong with Winfield's spinal cord and that it's not expected to be a long-term injury.

"Everything I've been told, it's soreness and stiffness," Frazier said. "It should dissipate over time. Until he feels comfortable to say, 'You know what, I'm ready to get out there and try it,' nobody is going to urge him to do anything more than he's comfortable doing."

Winfield's absence would hurt the Vikings, both against the pass and the run. He stuffs the run better than any other corner in the league. And against the pass, teams usually don't throw his way.

If Winfield can't play, the Vikings will start nickel back Chris Cook at left corner. Asher Allen, a disappointing third-year pro, would be the nickel back.

"(Allen) has had a good two days of practice," Frazier said. "He's practicing as if he's going to play. That's the right attitude to take because it might end up being that way."

PERSONNEL NEWS

CARDINALS

--P Dave Zastudil has swelling in his right knee, and he might miss Sunday's game in Minnesota. Ben Graham was signed earlier this week as insurance.

--TE Rob Housler, a rookie, would assume the tight end spot if Todd Heap (hamstring) can't play. Jeff King is the other tight end.

--RB Beanie Wells has rushed for 321 yards in three games, but he wants to prove himself as a receiver. He has dropped passes in each of the past two games.

--OLB O'Brien Schofield could get more snaps this week as coaches try to give Joey Porter more in-game rest. Porter struggled late last week against the Giants, coach Ken Whisenhunt said, and the Cardinals have to do a better job of monitoring his playing time.

--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling is likely to return kicks this week after a three-week break. Stephens-Howling was out for two of those games with a hand injury. A.J. Jefferson took his place and averaged 29 yards a return.

VIKINGS

--C John Sullivan returned to practice on a limited basis after missing Wednesday's practice because of a sprained ankle. He should be ready to play on Sunday. If not, the Vikings' strongest depth on the offensive line is at center with veteran backup Joe Berger as the only backup with starting experience.

--P Chris Kluwe tweaked his right hamstring covering his first punt of last Sunday's game. He stayed in the game and averaged 53.3 yards on four punts. But he's been unable to practice this week. He'll try to punt on Friday. If he can't, the team will look at signing a punter from a list that includes former Lion Nick Harris. Kluwe downplayed the injury Thursday, saying he would "definitely" play on Sunday.

--LT Charlie Johnson continues to be limited in practice with an elbow strain that he suffered last Sunday. He missed the final 11 offensive snaps of the Chiefs game, but isn't expected to miss this Sunday's game.

--FS Husain Abdullah (pelvis) and SS Jamarca Sanford (knee) both are limited in practice this week. That's not good news for a team that's going to need to find a way to double-cover Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday. Sanford has missed several tackles this season. Abdullah, the team's leading tackler, isn't a head-turning player, but he has gotten more dependable the last two years.

--LB E.J. Henderson might be able to take back some of his role in the nickel now that he's made it through back-to-back practices, albeit in a limited basis. His troublesome left knee appears to be better this week. Henderson normally plays every defensive snap, but last week the coaches were forced to limit his snaps in the nickel.

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