Tim Hightower (Getty)
For the second time this year, the Arizona Cardinals square off in front of a national audience on Sunday night football. Previously, the Cardinals were dismantled on the main stage in a Week 3 loss against the Indianapolis Colts. Sunday night’s game in the desert won’t be any easier as Arizona takes on Brett Favre and the 10-1 Minnesota Vikings.
Sunday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings resembles an earlier matchup that didn’t fair well for the Arizona Cardinals. In Week 3, the Cardinals found themselves in primetime against the Indianapolis Colts only to suffer their worst lost of the season. Indianapolis dominated all facets of the game en route to a 31-10 victory. During that game, Arizona allowed over 500 yards of total offense including 379 yards through the air.
The Minnesota Vikings come to the desert with similar characteristics and will pose as a difficult test for an Arizona team still with plenty to prove. Three of the Cardinals’ wins have come against bottom feeders of the NFC West and wins against the New York Giants and Houston Texans appear less impressive by the week. If Arizona can knock off Minnesota, it may finally be considered a true contender in the NFC.
The Cardinals’ main concern entering the matchup of division leaders is the health of QB Kurt Warner. Even though Warner is expected to start, Arizona’s offensive line must contain the Vikings’ fierce pass rush in order to keep him on the field. The Cardinals have managed to protect its signal callers throughout the year allowing just 18 sacks but Minnesota has racked up a league best 40 sacks on the season.
While backup QB Matt Leinart put forth an admirable performance a week ago against the surging Tennessee Titans, Arizona will likely need Warner back in full force to keep place with the explosive Vikings’ offense. QB Brett Favre is arguably experiencing the best season of his illustrious career and RB Adrian Peterson remains one of the most dynamic runners in the professional ranks.
There should be plenty of fireworks through the air as both teams have struggled in pass defense. Minnesota ranks 19th in the NFL allowing over 220 passing yards per game while the Cardinals rank 29th in the league allowing nearly 260 yards per contest. The Vikings have been stout against the run, limiting opponents to less than 82 yards per game while Arizona has been more generous on the ground giving up 109 yards.
Whichever team can hold its own on the defensive side of the ball and establish a running game will likely have the advantage. Thanks to the tandem of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower, the Cardinals’ rushing attack has shown signs of life and gives the team a chance to win. However, overcoming Peterson, Favre and a capable receiving corps will be a difficult task even on Arizona’s home turf.
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