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Previewing The Cardinals

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As we mentioned previously, this game provides the Vikings with many opportunities to solidify their post season standing.  If the Vikings win, they are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.  If the Vikings win and the Packers lose on Monday night, then the Vikings have clinched the NFC North.

Also, as we previously mentioned, if the Vikings can win one more of their final five games than the Saints do, then they will be the #1 seed in the NFC.  This would give the Vikings home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Despite last year’s dismantling of the Cardinals, the Vikings cannot afford to go to sleep this week, as the defending NFC champs are still a team loaded talent-wise with the potential to exploit any mistakes made by the Vikings.

This is shaping up to be the Vikings toughest test since November 1st when they travelled to Green Bay.

Let’s take a look at how these two teams matchup:

VIKINGS PASS OFFENSE (Advantage: Vikings)

The Vikings have the 7th ranked passing offense in the league, while the Cardinals have the 29th ranked passing defense. 

On paper, this is a very good matchup for Favre and company, but in practice the Cardinals have the ability to make the Vikings pay if they try to air it out too much.

The Cardinals potential to shut down the pass and force turnovers lives and dies with the performance of their front seven.  They have a very respectable 32 sacks on the year, and if they can put constant pressure on Favre then there is a chance that he makes more mistakes than we are used to seeing.

Leading the pass rush is Darnell Dockett with 7 sacks on the year.  However, the rest of the defense has stepped up and registered a few sacks of their own including Calais Campbell (4), Clark Haggans (4.5), and Chike Okeafor (3.5).  The Vikings offensive line will probably be the deciding factor in how successful the team is through the air.

If the pass rush can force Favre to make a few mistakes, then the Cardinals have playmakers in the defensive backfield that are capable of making game-changing plays. 

Dominique Rogers-Cromartie has 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 touchdown on the year.  Antrel Rolle has 4 interceptions and a forced fumble.  Adrian Wilson has 3 interceptions and a forced fumble. 

Needless to say, Favre will need to be on top of his game this Sunday, despite the Cardinals being ranked so low against the pass.  He will have limited time to make throws, so I expect to see shorter routes with the majority of the passes going towards Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe.  Keeping Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian on shorter routes, like slants, will keep Favre from having to take hits too often and also limit those talented corners and safeties from having chances to make plays on the ball.  I cannot stress enough, however, that the success through the air on Sunday will depend most on the offensive lines ability to protect Favre.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Percy Harvin arguably had the best game of his young career last week.  He is gradually becoming more and more a part of this offense each week.  As I mentioned, I expect Favre to be trying to methodically move the team down field via short, high percentage passes.  I expect that many of these passes will go towards Favre’s sure-handed rookie receiver, with hopes that he can make something happen after the catch.  Assuming that the Cardinals opt to put their best defensive backs against Rice and Berrian, there are very few other defenders on the Cardinals defense that come anywhere close to matching up well against Harvin’s speed and toughness.  I’m thinking Harvin will possibly top last week’s performance during this prime time matchup.

VIKINGS RUN OFFENSE  (Advantage:  Vikings)

It is time to move on from the worries of Adrian Peterson’s fumbling habit.  The fact is that defenses are having to choose between stopping Adrian Peterson or letting the November player of the month beat them through the air.  Despite Favre’s incredible performances, teams are STILL opting to focus on Peterson.  That is because they know what Favre is doing great, but Peterson has the potential to beat them even worse.  If they didn’t believe that, then teams wouldn’t still be putting 8 in the box on every down.

The Vikings are ranked 9th in rushing offense while the Cardinals rank a respectable 14th against the run.  Karlos Dansby is perhaps the best run defender on their team, and he leads the team with an incredible 65 solo tackles.  Opponents are averaging 4.5 yards per carry against the Cardinals, and I have a feeling they’d be averaging more if it wasn’t for Dansby’s knack for bringing down the runner.

The Vikings are one of the scariest running teams in the NFL.  Adrian Peterson is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, despite the incredible amount of attention he is getting from opposing defensive coordinators.  He has the ability to cut back to make 20 yards out of nothing.  He has the ability to toss a linebacker to the side or completely run over a defensive back.  His legs will never stop churning and he will make you pay if you don’t wrap up properly.

Oh, yeah, and we have a guy named Chester Taylor.  Taylor can hold his own and seems to break a run for decent yardage at very opportune times at least once a game.  Percy Harvin could also continue to see increased reps as a runner since he is averaging 8.3 yards per attempt.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again… the best way for opposing defenses to stop this Vikings offense is to stack 8 guys in the box and blitz every single time.  This puts unwanted pressure on Favre and also keeps Adrian Peterson in check as he’ll meet at least one defender in the backfield on almost every run.  The Steelers did this to us and they won.  Nobody else has done this to us and they’ve all lost.  I suspect that the next team to employ this strategy will beat us, or at least come close, but I don’t think Arizona has enough confidence in its defense to do this.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Adrian Peterson will be under a microscope on Sunday night because of the attention paid to his fumbles last week and his recent speeding ticket.  Peterson will use his work ethic and heart to ensure that all those eyes watching him closely, looking for fumbles, will see nothing but a stellar performance.  He will need to get at least 20 carries in this game in order for the Vikings to maintain balance, and thus I think will have a very exciting outing in the desert.  If he isn’t benched or suspended that is…

VIKINGS PASS DEFENSE (Advantage: Cardinals)

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that both Antoine Winfield and Kurt Warner play in this game.  If Winfield doesn’t play then the Cardinals will find more success.  If Warner doesn’t play, then the Cardinals have proven to be a much less potent offense.

The Cardinals have the 5th ranked passing offense going against the Vikings 19th ranked pass defense.  Any time you have a team having to figure out ways to stop Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston in addition to a check down option like Tim Hightower you are going to have breakdowns on defense.  That statement is especially true with Kurt Warner at the helm.

Even with the Vikings probably getting Antoine Winfield back in the mix, the Vikings corners do not matchup well with the Cardinals receivers.  To me, this means that an increase in dependability from Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams is a MUST in order for the Vikings to properly cover.  Even if all the Vikings defensive backs play their best football, the Cardinals provide very dangerous mismatches in the passing game.

This is why the Vikings again must win the battle in the trenches.  It is no secret that Kurt Warner is even less mobile than your typical statue, so the Vikings have the opportunity to completely shut down the passing game by not letting them pass at all. 

The Cardinals have allowed 18 sacks this year, with the struggles coming particularly at both ends of the line.  The Cardinals starting tackles have pretty much been windmills this season, and starting left tackle Mike Gandy may not even be able to play due to injury. 

This means that our defensive line could potentially tear up the Cardinals offense by getting good penetration on a regular basis.  Jared Allen has been relatively quiet against non-division opponents, so we will need him to step up in a big way.  The rest of the line will need to stay hot as well, in order to lend a helping hand to our defensive backs.  I would not be surprised to see Leslie Frazier dial up blitzes on a very regular basis as well.  Getting to Warner has got to be the Vikings top priority on defense, no questions asked.

While Tim Hightower should not be forgotten as a threat on passing downs, another advantage that the Vikings have on their side is that the Cardinals basically have no threats at tight end.  Ben Patrick leads the Cardinals tight ends with only 9 catches through 11 games.  These tight ends will doubtless continue to not be a factor in the passing game, as they will doubtless be asked to constantly help out the offensive line in pass protection.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Jared Allen is having a great year, and I think it is about to get even better.  Whether he ends up facing Mike Gandy or a backup like rookie Herman Johnson, he outmatches these guys in a very dangerous way.  Combine Allen’s incredible talent, the lack of efficiency at left tackle for the Cards, and Warner’s inability to escape and I could see Allen having not only a multiple sack day, but a day in which he creates another turnover.

VIKINGS RUSH DEFENSE  (Advantage:  Vikings)

The Vikings 2nd ranked rush defense against the Cardinals 27th ranked rush offense is a mismatch like no other.

Despite using a first round draft pick on highly regarded Chris “Beanie” Wells, the Cardinals have been unable to find any sort of a rhythm in the run game. 

Hightower and Wells are obviously the Cardinals biggest running threats.  They average 4.3 and 4.5 yards per carry respectively.  Neither player has shown a great ability to break off large chunks of yardage, however.  I suspect that the WilliamsWall will hold up just fine.

If the Vikings run defense plays at the level they have been playing at recently, then I suspect that the Cardinals will abandon the run fairly early in this game and resort to relying on their passing game.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  The Vikings should be getting Antoine Winfield back this week.  The Cardinals will doubtless try to avoid the WilliamsWall entirely and attempt to bounce their running backs to the outside.  This is where Antoine Winfield has made a living for himself, by recognizing the run to his side early and then proceeding to drop the ball carrier in the backfield.  It sure will be fun to see that again.

VIKINGS SPECIAL TEAMS (No Significant Advantage)

Neil Rackers and Ryan Longwell are both having very good years, each having missed only one field goal.  Longwell, however, has proven that he can be counted on from beyond 50 yards.  Rackers has not attempted a field goal from that distance all year.

Ben Graham is averaging 4.1 yards per kick longer than Chris Kluwe.  Graham has also placed almost twice as many punts inside the 20 yard line than Kluwe has.  However, Graham has punted 14 times more than Kluwe.

Darius Reynaud is averaging 11.6 yards per punt return while the Cardinals are giving up 10.7 yards per attempt.  Steve Breaston is averaging 6.6 yards per punt return and the Vikings are giving up 7.3 yards per punt return.

Percy Harvin is averaging 29.8 yards per kick return and two touchdowns.  The Cardinals are allowing 21.6 yards per kick return.  LaRod Stephens-Howling is averaging 25 yards per kick return with one touchdown.  The Vikings are allowing 22.8 yards per kick return.

The Cardinals have allowed no touchdowns on returns this year, while the Vikings have allowed 1 touchdown on a punt return.

Both special teams units are playing very well this year, and it would not be a surprise to see the performances of these two squads play a major factor in the outcome of this game.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  With teams starting to avoid kicking towards Percy Harvin (no returns against the Bears) it would be nice to see Darius Reynaud take one to the house.  The coverage units for the Cardinals are playing very well, however, so Reynaud will really need to bring his A-game and make some plays if he wants to give the Vikings an advantage.

CONCLUSION

Both these teams will surely be in the playoffs this year.  Regardless of how badly we torched the Cardinals last year (they had already clinched the division, remember) they are still capable of destroying teams on their home turf. 

The Vikings linemen, on both sides of the ball, need to be the ones that win this game for us.  Protecting our quarterback and getting to theirs are the keys to success.

I think the Vikings are clearly the better team, but if they decide to only play three quarters of good football, then the Cardinals are capable of running away with it.

This will be a tough matchup and doubtless a very good game.

PREDICTION

My predictions have been accurate enough to where it even surprised me to look back and see how close they’ve been.  I have officially tried to predict 8 of the Vikings 11 games so far. 

My most inaccurate predictions came last week against the Bears and a while back when the Vikings lost to the Steelers.  I predicted that the Vikings would beat the Bears 31-23, but the score ended up being 36-10.  I predicted that the Vikings would beat the Steelers 33-30, but the Steelers beat the Vikings 17-27.

On the other six games I’ve predicted, I have come quite close to actually guessing the score, never being off by more than a touchdown.  Okay, enough tooting of my own horn, here’s my prediction for this week:

31-24, Vikings win.


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43 Responses to “Previewing The Cardinals”

  1. bigjohnny84 says:

    Another great job Adam. You should be making a six figure salary for all you do. Although I believe Freds and I were closer to predicting last weeks score.

  2. Adam Warwas says:

    Six figures, eh? Well, I think we’d have to raise the rent around here… to about $10,000 per subscription.

    Yeah, I missed the boat last week. Thought the Bears would at least TRY to play a tough divisional game. Guess I thought wrong.

  3. Fran the Man says:

    Great preview of the game Adam. Geez, where do you find the time?

    About the only thing I’m worried about is our pass D this Sunday. Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Breaston are 3 REALLY good receivers. If Warner plays and is healthy, that could give us fits!

    By the way, a typo in your Run offense section;

    The Vikings are ranked 9th in “PASSING” offense while the Cardinals rank a respectable 14th against the run.

    I think you meant RUN offense. . .

  4. bigjohnny84 says:

    Adam, I thought the same thing about the Lions, in case you forgot. Only 10 grand, I’ll bet Freds would pay.

  5. Fran the Man says:

    Adam, I didn’t watch the MNF game last night. The “Civil War” was WAY better.

    Yeah, Matt Millian, a walking typo. . .

    Hey, check this out over at the Evil AV (Wonder how long they’ll leave it up?)

    http://www.startribune.com/sports/vikings/blogs/78454672.html?cache=n&uccb=1259949374#post_comments

  6. Fran the Man says:

    Good morning to you Big John,

    I’ll tell you, if Warner is healthy (Big “If”),
    that receiving crew can make our lives miseable. . .

  7. Fragile Fred says:

    Hello to all of Freds’ friends. AKs nice work as always.

    Fred has been deep undercover, Adrian was caught speeding huh? What does our guy drive anyway? Adrian needs to be much more “patient” behind the wheel. I hope Adrian’s insurance rates don’t go up too much. I’m sure the yellow cab company can pick him up each morning for the next year and drive him to work.

    AK, Fred saw that college QB from Cincy a couple weeks ago for the first time, this dude would look good wearing purple.

    Anyone ever listen to the podcast from KFAN where Paul Allen and Coach Baldenee chat for 30 minutes or so? Listening to those two makes Fred want to listen to Joe Buck. It’s bad, really bad.

  8. Fragile Fred says:

    Work it Frans…

    You can join your pal Fred on the “unable to ever post again” list.

    • Fran the Man says:

      You “Can’t” or won’t post there Freds?

      It looks like they are blocking me now.
      You to?

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Freds, here’s a special invitation for the Live blog just for you (since I slacked last weekend).

      Please bring your in depth knowledge of X’s and O’s… always good to have a shutdown corner to give some insight.

  9. Fran the Man says:

    I also posted one to the old AV with a link to your site and it’s gone too.

    I think they’re really feeling the pinch since they went the “Premium” route.

    I really liked C&J in the old days. They were real good at answering questions and interacting with the bloggers.
    It will never make any sense to me why they never bothered to answer ANY of the questions that the old crew asked them when the went “Evil” on us.
    Hell, most of us couldn’t even log on under our long-held user names and they never responded to that issue. I emailed both C&J AND Access Vikings numerous times trying to get to the bottom of the problems and did not get ONE answer.
    F ‘Em.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Appreciate the support here at VG, Fran.

      Our little community is gradually growing.

      • Fran the Man says:

        You do a great job here Adam. (It’s not just your sparkling personality that makes me visit)
        Your information you provide is timely, informative and well written.
        I’m sure this site will grow and grow.

        I’m on many different Viking forums and one thing that I would say negatively about VG is that it’s not set up as well as many other sites.
        Most have ways to privately email other posters, ways to access your own older posts, indexes of members, things like that.
        I’m sure you know what I mean.
        Any chance that VG will evolve into some of these areas?

      • Adam Warwas says:

        Fran, much like J&C, I don’t get to make the “big decisions” around here. I sent your comments directly to my “boss” and the sports gab “tech guy.” I will let you know when I get a response.

        I do know that a meeting is scheduled soon to address possible changes/upgrades for 2010. The comments are not taken lightly.

        Good feedback, and other feedback from anybody is very welcomed.

  10. Fran the Man says:

    Another thing while I’m at it.

    There were well over 50 of us at the old AV, that commented frequently, when they went “Premium” on us.
    What in the world were they thinking, just blowing off that amount of fans?
    A lot of us came over here to Vikings Gab and some went to the Pioneer Press and other sites.
    ALL because they wouldn’t even try to re-connect with us. Dissed us.
    I’ll bet if their advertisers had been aware of their stupidity, there would have been a different response.

  11. Fran the Man says:

    Of course Adam is chuckling. . .

    • Adam Warwas says:

      The difference is that I don’t do this for any money. I do it because I’m a fan and like chatting with other die-hards.

      I wrote just as much and just as often 8 months ago when VG had no regular readers at all.

      Glad to have you guys here now, as getting comments on something you’ve written is encouraging and fulfilling. Makes me strive to do more of it (to the possible dismay of Mrs. Warwas).

      As I’ve said before, it is their loss (financially) and my gain (personally).

      • Fran the Man says:

        I didn’t realize you did this for free.
        I notice you have advertisers, who does get paid?

      • Adam Warwas says:

        I’ll email you in regards to this, Fran.

      • Fran the Man says:

        Ok, I just googled “Packers gab, Bears gab, raiders gab, redskin gab” and a couple others.
        Had no idea that ALL nfl teams have a “Gab”

        Cool. Must be sort of new though, as I noticed that out of all 6 that I checked on, a total of 7 posts! That’s 7 TOTAL posts from ALL six sites.

        Adam, you have hundreds.
        They should be paying you, you’re their star!!

      • Adam Warwas says:

        Fran, all of the Gab sites can be seen by visiting our mother site (www.nflgridirongab.com). They are listed on the left hand side by division.

        The Gab sites are not new, and they have much more posts than that… though Vikings Gab is one of the best in terms of amount of updates.

  12. Fragile Fred says:

    AK,

    Tell Frans the truth. You do it for the chicks!!! Chicks dig writers.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      There’s only one chick that matters… and strangely I don’t think she digs writers. She’s more into poofy haired, pale skinned vampires.

      Mrs. Warwas: I don’t want you to see New Moon with me.

      AK: I don’t want to see it either. But we’re here and nothing else is playing.

      Mrs. Warwas: Well, you are not allowed to talk during it.

      AK: Am I allowed to sleep?

      Mrs. Warwas: As long was you don’t talk in your sleep.

      AK: Deal.

  13. Fragile Fred says:

    Did watching New Moon make you want to question drafting Percy Harvin and wish the purple would have drafted Michael Oher?

  14. Fragile Fred says:

    Fred will be at the chat at some point this Sunday. Hopefully Freds dinner guests leave sooner than later. Fred enjoys his company, but not as much as he likes the Vikings.

    Frans, don’t melt down old pal… we love having your opinions here.

  15. bigjohnny84 says:

    Adam any chance with all the new folks coming and posting here that you will get paid? Good job by Fran over at AV. What did his post say at the old AV? I didnt get there in time.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      But Johnny, if they started to pay me for this then I would have to, you know, proof read my work and pay attention to what I say 😉

      I do get more out of this than I’m letting on, but I would call it “perks” rather than payment. So don’t feel bad for me or anything like that. This blog has become my favorite hobby… and everyone needs a favorite hobby.

  16. bigjohnny84 says:

    Typos suck because by the time you notice them your just finishing the post. Its easier to leave it than go back and retype everything

  17. Cslinde says:

    A-Dubs! Great preview Cuz! This week has been a real bummer. We’re 10-1 and ready to prepare for the playoffs, among top five contenders in the league, 2nd ranked offense, blah blah. Still as Vikes fans, we all have a bit of a complex in that we are just waiting for the slightest sign that it will all come crashing down.
    In regards to AP in the news this week: aside from the legal aspects, is that he was late to report to the hotel. Now, atleast he was busting his tail to get there, but far too dangerously. We have all been late, had a speeding ticket, etc… I just hope his focus hasn’t taken a step back because he’s really not as involved this year. The attention isn’t soley on him and maybe he’s not giving the 150% he normally gives. I look for him to be on a mission the next few weeks as hopefully the coaching staff and himself make sure nothing extraterrestrial, if you will, has an impact on the goals this team has the chance to accomplish. Skol and hope all is well with you and the wife these Holidays!

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