Vikings Know Your Enemy: Arizona Cardinals

Dec 10, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) breaks up a pass intended for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Dec 10, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) breaks up a pass intended for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Vikings now hit the stretch of their schedule in which they inconveniently face tough teams as the Vikings are unable to defeat teams they should beat. The Vikings will welcome the Arizona Cardinals to U.S. Bank Stadium this Sunday, noon Central Time; the game can be watched on FOX.

The Cardinals are also a team that had high playoff hopes at the beginning of this season. Likewise, their hopes have slowly been dwindling away as their defense has yet to perform the way they did last year.

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The team, especially the defense, takes on the personality of their coach, Bruce Arians. Arians has a certain fire and swagger about him that breeds a winning attitude. A stifling defense also helps the situation out immensely but most of that stems from the coach’s attitude.

Arians has coached the Cardinals since 2013. According to coaching biography, Arians started the season as third in wins since his Cardinals’ tenure began to only Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.


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The reason this team is always in a game is due in large part to their stout defense. The Cardinals rank third overall in points allowed this season and second in passing yards per game given up. The toughest part for Arizona’s defense this season is the fact that Tyrann Mathieu has not come back to his former ball-hawking self since returning from injury. Patrick Peterson is still one of the best corners in the league and ESPN’s FPI rankings have them second in defensive efficiency.


Along with a stifling defense, the Cardinals possess a passing attack that ranks seventh in the NFL in yards per game. With Larry Fitzgerald still performing at a high level, Carson Palmer will always have a security blanket when in need of a big first down. The ingredient that had been missing in year’s past was a true threat at the running back position. This year however, the Cardinals possess one of the best running backs in the game in David Johnson.


With all their offensive weapons, the Cardinals should be leading the league in points scored, correct? Highly contrary as they rank 20th in scoring; all the yards they gain are for nothing. The weakness here is their inability to cash in touchdowns instead of field goals. Vikings’ fans can definitely relate.

According to Darren Urban of, the Cardinals brought Drew Butler back for punting duties and cut Ryan Quigley. The Cardinals currently rank dead last in the NFL in net punt average. Butler was dealing with some injuries but Arians believes his versatility as a backup kicker and kickoff specialist better suits the team.


How can the Vikings win?

It would be easy to simply answer, “they can’t.” However, the Vikings can and will win this game if they get to Palmer early on in this one. Palmer is prone to overthrowing the ball when targeting the middle of the field, when he is pressured. If Linval Joseph can have a “Linval hungry” type game, Palmer will throw the ball right to Harrison Smith, at least once.

Another way this game could be easier for the Vikings to win would be to score touchdowns. May sound simple enough yet they have failed to score more than 20 points the last four games. If the Vikings can find a way to bully the Cardinals defense in the red zone, this game could be in hand. However without a consistent running game, bullying the Cardinals becomes extremely difficult.





Zimmer is out coaching himself by over thinking the calls right now.

Arians has been to the NFC Championship game and tends to let his players play.

Offensive line

Both have their issues; the Vikings have more at this moment.

The Cardinals have given up more sacks overall but not as many as the Vikings the past three weeks.


Bradford reminds me of Palmer; good and bad, he is just not as good right now.

Palmer takes a close one here as his age is catching up to him quickly.

Running backs

Worst in the league in rushing right now.

Johnson is the best utility back in the game right now.


Diggs is coming on as of late but cannot compare to the Cardinals…..yet.

Fitzgerald, Floyd and John Brown are a great compliment to each other.

Defensive line

Vikings still take this one on the potential they will turn it around.

Much better when Marcus Peters is healthy.


Health comes into play here; if Barr and Kendricks are healthy, they take this one.

They have a nice young corps and may be better because of health but Vikings edge them, barely.

Defensive backs

They make it close but Arizona may have the best four defensive back combo in the game.

When Tony Jefferson is your weak link, you are sitting pretty well.

Special teams

Somewhat of a coin flip here yet the Vikings return game is a bit better.

Worst net punting average in the league right now.






As the matchup table suggests, the Cardinals stack up quite nicely against the Vikings. However, as Viking fans know full well, these games are played for a reason; paper matchups mean nothing.

Wrap up

If the Vikings want to hold onto any glimmer of hope for the playoffs, it starts with this matchup between two embattled opponents. Whichever team can hold their injuries during the contest to a minimum may pull this tight contest out.

The Vikings cannot afford to drop their fifth straight game but no one will fault them for losing this one as the Cardinals are a tough opponent. The Vikings will need to be clicking in all phases of the game. If they give up an easy score, that could open the flood gates for a team just searching for an opening to put the pedal to the floor.


The tempo of this game may be faster than what the Vikings are used to but they better be up to the challenge of suffer their fifth straight loss. “Heartbreak to futility” sounds a lot less fun than “Heartbreak to Houston.” Either way, Houston looks out of reach unless something changes this week.

Justin Ekstrom can be followed on Twitter @thesportscrib21. Be sure to follow and comment about vikings32 on Facebook and Twitter.

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