Minnesota Vikings @ Arizona Cardinals: Preview and Prediction


On Thursday night, the Minnesota Vikings will look to bounce back against the Arizona Cardinals after a humiliating home loss to the Seattle Seahawks in their last outing.

NOTE: Due to the short week, this week’s preview is more condensed than the traditional preview you may have seen the past few weeks.

I have one question for the loyal purple faithful out there eagerly anticipating tomorrow night’s Thursday night clash between the Vikings and the Cardinals.

Are you sure you want to watch?

Because this game will be ugly. Really, really ugly. You saw what happened last Sunday against the Seahawks and you probably vomited while you were watching. If you want to put yourself through that again, be my guest. But let it be on record that I warned you.

Put simply, all signs point to a blowout loss for the Vikings tomorrow night in Arizona.

Last week, already without starting nose tackle Linval Joseph, Minnesota quickly lost Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr to injury in the first quarter. What was left of the Vikings defense was an utter disaster, as Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls and Doug Baldwin ran circles around the unit.

Tomorrow night, the same group will get to go on the road and try to deal with an offense that is more explosive and dynamic than Seattle.

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With Carson Palmer at the helm, this Cardinals offense has become one of the most high-powered units in the NFL. In fact, they lead the league in total offensive yards per game (419), rank 3rd in passing yards per game (299) and are 8th in rushing yards per game (120). Palmer has been terrific throwing the football, and it helps that he has guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown to throw to on the outside.

On the ground, the revival of Chris Johnson has been the big story for Arizona. Johnson was signed just before the season, and an injury to Andre Ellington opened the door for Johnson and he took full advantage. Unfortunately for Arizona (and maybe fortunately for Minnesota), Johnson and Ellington will both be on sidelines tomorrow night nursing injuries (Johnson is actually on injured reserve).

This means David Johnson will step in and be in line for the bulk of carries. Against St. Louis last week, he totaled 120 yards (21 receiving) and one touchdown. This man is no scrub, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see him have a big day against the depleted Minnesota defense.

Offensively for Minnesota, it should come as no surprise that they’ll likely ride Adrian Peterson as long as they can in this game. One could argue that offensive coordinator Norv Turner gave up on Peterson early last week, but what was he really supposed to do? They were down by a large deficit for most of the game, and Peterson wasn’t going anywhere when he did get the ball.

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With that being said, if there’s a weakness in Arizona’s defense, it’s their rushing defense. At first glance, the rankings show that the Cardinals are 4th in the NFL in terms of rushing yards allowed, giving up 89 per game. However, since Arizona has been ahead in games so often, that number is due to a low number of carries more than a stout rushing defense. The Cardinals are actually just the 16th best rushing defense in terms of yards per carry allowed, giving up an even four per tote.

Since Minnesota will be dealing with an incredibly talented secondary and a mediocre rushing defense, Peterson should get his wish for more carries this week. It might be the Vikings’ only chance to win this game.

Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings passing attack has been downright putrid this season. As Cian Fahey of Football Outsiders points out, most of the blame does go on the poor play of the offensive line and the fact that Minnesota’s receivers have struggled to get open. With that said, it’s not like Bridgewater has been earning an A+ out there.

Keys to Victory

Establish the run

This seems like an obvious key to victory because it’s pretty much been the case in each of Minnesota’s wins. However, it’s the case more so this week. It seems like there’s no way to jump-start the passing game, so an effective rushing attack might be the only way to move the ball effectively. If Peterson isn’t churning out big chunks on a consistent basis, the Vikings won’t have any chance whatsoever. Plain and simple.

Make Arizona one-dimensional

This is a pretty difficult task, especially for an extremely depleted defense against probably the most explosive offense in the NFL. Frankly, this is almost an unrealistic goal. But, if the Vikings can shut down the Arizona rushing attack and at least make their offense predictable, it would be a lot easier to contain the Cardinals’ offense as a whole.

Play well on national TV

This comes up every time the Vikings play on national TV, and it’s worth mentioning again. In the Vikings’ last 16 national TV games, the Vikings are 1-15, and a majority of those losses are straight blowouts. Furthermore, the only win there is the infamous Tuesday night game in 2010 when Joe freaking Webb of all people led the Vikings over the Philadelphia Eagles.

I don’t know if it’s a curse or bad luck or what, but the Vikings just don’t play well on national TV. And, frankly, I don’t expect that to change tomorrow night.


Last night’s loss to Seattle forced a rush of pessimism to sweep over my fandom of the Vikings. It’s irrational, yes, but I’ve lost almost every bit of confidence I had in this team. Especially considering the injuries to Smith, Barr and Joseph, I just can’t believe in this team right now.

Next: Takeaways from Vikings' loss to Seahawks

In a tough road matchup on national television, I’m forced to pick against the Vikings for the first time since Week 4. And it won’t be close.

Cardinals 41, Vikings 13

The loss certainly won’t take the Vikings out of the playoff picture, but it will raise some eyebrows regarding the certainty of a playoff spot.

Continue to check with Sporting Sota for news and analysis on the Minnesota Vikings and the rest of the Minnesota sports teams.