The Arizona Cardinals face the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8 and seek to win two straight games for the first time this season. They have not won in Minnesota since 1977. They face a couple of prominent former Cardinals players in cornerback Patrick Peterson and linebacker Jordan Hicks.
To help preview this contest, Vikings Wire managing editor Tyler Forness takes us behind enemy lines to give us some insight to the team he covers and the team the Cardinals face on Sunday.
Patrick Peterson and Jordan Hicks
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How have former Cardinals Patrick Peterson and Jordan Hicks done this season?
Both Peterson and Hicks have been interesting on the Vikings this season. While they have had their moments of brilliance, both are really starting to show signs of their age and declining.
Peterson has been the perfect mentor for Cameron Dantzler this season. He is winning at the catch point not with athleticism or speed, but with technique and football IQ. The defense has not allowed Peterson to do what he does best: play bump and run. That might change this week which could be good for a Vikings defense that truly plays a bend-but-don’t-break style.
Hicks has shown a lot more issues than Peterson has. While he has an interception and a lot of tackles on the season, he has struggled massively in coverage. He has let tight ends and slot receivers get behind him leading to big plays, first downs and touchdowns. There is a lot of chatter about getting third-round pick Brian Asamoah, who was seen as a developmental player, some more snaps and Hicks’ struggles are the reason for that.
The Vikings' 5-1 record
The Vikings are off to a 5-1 start. Are they as good as their record indicates with their close wins coming against struggling or shorthanded teams?
The honest answer is that nobody really knows right now. Last year, they were 6-8 in one-score games and this year, they are 4-0. Is it really due to the new coaching staff and medical personnel? It could be. They have had tremendous injury luck so far with only one starter missing a game due to injury with Harrison Smith missing week three with a concussion. They also lead the league in scoring in the last four minutes of each half and overtime after being the worst in the NFL in that category last year. The next three weeks are going to tell us a lot about what this Vikings team is.
New coaching staff
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How different do things look on both sides of the ball with a new coaching staff?
It’s amazing how much this team looks very much the same as last year but feels completely different. The offense has been inconsistent but has shown strides in scheming, play calling and especially on the offensive line. Outside of that, they are scoring two fewer points per game and are on track to have more three-and-outs than last year. The vibe is much better and has fans feeling hopeful.
The defense is very similar to the offense. They are allowing teams to sustain and extend drives but they aren’t allowing them to score, holding them to just 19.67 points per game, which is significantly better than the 25.1 points per game the unit allowed last season. It’s obvious that defensive coordinator Ed Donatell doesn’t have all the horses that he needs to run the scheme successfully and the bye week should provide the necessary adjustments they need to play less of a Gumby bend, but don’t break style.
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We know the big names — Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, etc. Who are some lesser-known players who are making an impact?
Christian Darrisaw’s emergence as a solid left tackle has really made things easier for this Vikings offense. People laughed, including myself, when there were comparisons to all-pro left tackle Trent Williams during joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers. Turns out, those comparisons were good. Darrisaw is a really good athlete for his size, has been moving well and moving defenders with ease. The Vikings have put both Darrisaw and right tackle Brian O’Neill on islands allowing their interior, which is objectively their weak link, to be stronger and compensate for each other. Without Darrisaw taking that next step, the Vikings would be in rough shape.
What is your prediction for the game on Sunday?
Last year’s game was tremendous with both teams putting up a lot of points. The Vikings were about three yards to the right of winning the game with a Greg Joseph field goal. The Vikings being at home will be the difference as the Vikings extend their winning streak to five. Vikings 28, Cardinals 23.