Coming off of the bye week at 5-1, the Minnesota Vikings find themselves with a firm grasp on the NFC North after the Green Bay Packers fell to the Washington Commanders. The Vikings look to grow that lead further with a win against the 3-4 Arizona Cardinals. Here is what it is going to take for that to happen.
1. Come Out of the Bye Week Fast
The Vikings always seemed to struggle coming off of the bye week near the end of the Mike Zimmer era (1-3 in the last four games following a bye). Kevin O’Connell is looking to turn that trend around here in his first year as head coach. A big key to that is a fast start for the offense out of the gate. The Arizona Cardinals have allowed an NFL-worst 6.9 points per game in the first quarter to this point in the season so the opportunity for a quick start is certainly on the table. This feels like a game where if the offense starts with a couple of three-and-outs, the defense could struggle to slow the Cardinals’ offense and Minnesota could quickly find themselves down 14-0.
2. All Hands on Deck to Stop the Cardinals’ Rushing Attack
Since the Cardinals lost top wide receiver Marquise Brown a few weeks ago they have relied more on their already strong run game. It will be a combination of Eno Benjamin and Kyler Murray looking to move the ball on the ground. Benjamin has been fantastic for Arizona the past few weeks and will attempt to continue that success against the Vikings. The Minnesota defense is going to need a big day up the middle from Dalvin Tomlinson, Harrison Philips, and Jordan Hicks. Similar to the matchup against Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, containing the quarterback and making Murray throw the ball will be key. If you can make Kyler throw early and often, a matchup I am very much looking forward to is the battle between the aging veterans: DeAndre Hopkins vs. Patrick Peterson. It should make for good television.
3. Expose the Cardinals’ Cornerbacks
It is no secret that the biggest strength of the Arizona Cardinals is in fact not their cornerbacks. Outside of Budda Baker, the secondary as a whole is fairly weak with Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson as the starting cornerbacks. Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn should be able to take advantage of what I see as a huge mismatch. Normally I am in favor of always maintaining a balanced offensive attack, but this week I say you throw all over these cornerbacks until they prove that they can keep up (which I am not sure they can). Another huge game should be expected from Justin Jefferson as Kirk Cousins looks to add another chain to his collection just in time for the start of Kirkvember®.
Prediction: The Vikings explode in the passing game as Kirk Cousins throws for over 400 yards and the Cardinals struggle to keep pace. Vikings 34, Cardinals 24