Behind Enemy Lines: Vikings/Cardinals, Part I

Larry Fitzgerald and Antoine Winfield (Getty)

In Part I of an exclusive two-part series, VikingUpdate.com's Tim Yotter and AZRedReport.com's Amberly Richardson begin a back-and-forth interaction with five questions from Amberly to Tim. What's the latest news with the Williams' duo? Who's likely to start at QB, and is he ready? The Vikings can stuff the run, but can they stop Arizona's air attack? These questions and others answered inside.

Amberly Richardson: What is the latest news with Kevin Williams and Pat Williams? Will they be able to play the final games? What is the best possible outcome from those two guys?

Tim Yotter: Right now, the process is on hold and likely will be until at least Friday. Most likely, they will be able to play this weekend against the Cardinals, but after that all bets are off. Currently, the ruling is in the hands of U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson. The NFL and the NFLPA presented their arguments last week, and Judge Magnuson basically said he felt it was unfair of the NFL to want an immediate ruling on the case when it spent a couple of months to make the suspensions after the players tested positive. Honestly, it's hard to know which way the judge is leaning in the case. It's not a matter of whether the players had the banned substance Bumetanide in their system or not, it's a matter of if the NFL was obligated to inform players that the league knew StarCaps contained Bumetanide. The union claims the NFL knew about the banned substance in dietary pill StarCaps, which claimed to be all-natural, as early as 2006, but the judge will have to determine if the league had an obligation to inform the players in the best interest of their health under the collectively bargained steroids policy.


Jared Allen
(Getty)

AR: What was the deal with Jared Allen's injury against the Lions? Was it a cheap shot by Gosder Cherilus or was Cherilus just an overzealous rookie? Do you think it was the right decision for Allen to finish out the game, and will he be a go against Arizona?

TY: I put this in the same category that I put Jared Allen's hits on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. In my opinion, I don't think any of those hits were intentionally trying to injure someone and I don't think they were maliciously diving at knees. If anything, I believe Cherilus' was the most egregious because there was nothing to suggest he was being blocked into the knee. He simply dove back to cut off Allen.

But, since the league saw fit to fine Allen for two hits on Schaub's knee, in my opinion they should feel it's only fair to fine Cherilus for his hit on Allen. We'll have to wait until Friday to find out the answer to that. Vikings coach Brad Childress said Cherilus' hit on Allen was similar to one by Denver Broncos offensive lineman George Foster on Cincinatti Bengals defensive tackle Tony Williams a couple of years ago. After that hit, he says there was basically an add-on to a rule that you can't cut block going perpendicular to the end zone. I skimmed the 100-plus pages of the playing rules earlier this week and didn't find that reference, but the league has told me I'll find out more about it on Friday.

As for Allen, he didn't practice on Wednesday and he didn't make his usual Wednesday locker room appearance. More than likely he was getting treatment on the knee, but all indications are that he will play on Sunday. He is one tough player when it comes to playing through injuries. He suffered what he said was a grade-3 sprain to his shoulder earlier this season and played the next week. Usually that injury keeps players out at least a few weeks, but he prides himself on being "old-school."

AR: The Vikings can stuff the run, but how effective have they been in stopping the air game? How will Minnesota fare against one of the top passing teams in the league?

TY: Since the Vikings went to the Tampa-2 style of defense, they have really limited the big plays by opponents, but they do tend to give up a lot of yardage. Last week's 70-yard touchdown by Calvin Johnson was the exception for a defense that normally keeps everything in front of it. I would expect that Kurt Warner will have a lot of completions for a lot of yardage. The key for the Vikings, however, has been limiting teams once they get inside the red zone. They've been pretty good at tightening up the defense there, but a quick-release guy like Warner always seems to give them trouble.


Gus Frerotte
(Christian Peterson/Getty)

AR: What's the status of quarterback Gus Frerotte? If he can't play on Sunday, can Tarvaris Jackson get the job done?

TY: Frerotte definitely hasn't been moving around freely this week. He didn't practice Wednesday and he isn't expected to play. His lower back appears to be very stiff, and he said he felt something pop when he was making a tackle after an interception against Detroit. It seems pretty apparent that Jackson will end up getting the start.

Jackson had what was probably his best half of football Sunday against the Lions in relief of Frerotte. He looked more confident than I've ever seen him. He said he went back to just having more fun instead of being so concerned about everything, and he told me a few weeks ago that he just wasn't aggressive enough in his two starts earlier this year, before he was benched in favor of Frerotte. I've never seen Jackson be able to keep up in a shootout, so it would be up to the defense to create some turnovers and up to the running game to keep the potent Cardinals offense off the field as much as possible.

AR: What will it take for the Vikings to win in Arizona? What could be their downfall in the desert?

TY: This is an intriguing game to me because there are still a lot of questions I have about both teams at this late point in the season. For the Cardinals, are they as good as their record or is their record a reflection of not playing many quality opponents? The only impressive win I see on their résumé is against Dallas.


RB Adrian Peterson
(Christian Peterson/Getty)

For the Vikings, it will be interesting to see how Jackson responds as the starter. And then there is the issue of playing on the road for the Vikings. While they seem to have gotten better doing that, they need to show they can start to win consistently away from the friendlier confines of the Metrodome.

Either way, I think two things will be crucial. Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor are going to have to have big games. This should be the best rushing offense the Cardinals have seen all season, and the Vikings may need their backs to combine for 200 yards rushing. It may sound like a lot, but they've done it once already this year and Peterson did it twice on his own last year. He seems to play his best in big games, and the Vikings may need every ounce of his "All Day" effort.

Secondly, I think it will be important for the Vikings to get their arms up at the line of scrimmage and flood zones in an attempt to create an interception or two. They know the quick release of Warner isn't going to allow them to consistently get pressure on him, so they will have to counter that by batting down balls and making the most of any mistakes they might be able to create.

Amberly Richardson is the publisher of AZRedReport.com and Tim Yotter is the publisher of VikingUpdate.com.

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