The Arizona Cardinals (10-2) square off against the Minnesota Vikings (8-4) in yet another primetime game Thursday night in Glendale, AZ.
Arizona enters Thursday’s tilt on a six-game winning streak while Minnesota comes in off a disappointing 38-7 loss at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks.
While the Vikings were thoroughly dominated in Week 13 by the Seahawks, they’re still a formidable opponent for the Cardinals and must not be overlooked. Minnesota is in a battle with the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North crown and a win tonight will go a long way towards capturing a division title.
Offensively, Minnesota isn’t overwhelmingly good, but the resurgence of RB Adrian Peterson has helped tremendously. Peterson has already racked up 1,182 yards rushing and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry – looking like the Peterson of the past that took the NFL by storm out of the University of Oklahoma.
QB Teddy Bridgewater had been a good but not great signal caller, compiling a QB Rating of 83.0 to go along with a 64.8 completion percentage. Bridgewater has proved not to be a liability under center this year but hasn’t evolved into a true difference maker at the position either.
When looking at the matchups between Arizona and Minnesota, it appears to bode well for the Cardinals on paper.
Arizona has been stout against the run (89 yards per game) all season long while being somewhat vulnerable in pass defense (228 yards per game). The Vikings are clearly a run-first team and have stalled at times to consistently move the ball through the air.
On the flip side, Arizona deploys the NFL’s top offensive unit averaging just under 420 yards per game. Despite the losses of running backs Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, the Cardinals have managed to stay balanced on the ground with rookie David Johnson picking up the slack.
QB Carson Palmer’s career year continues as he’s already thrown for 3,693 yards and 29 touchdowns to go along with an astounding 106.3 QB Rating. Palmer is truly at the top of his game and even an average performance against Minnesota could be enough to help secure a win.
Look for Arizona to continue to establish its running game against a Vikings defense that’s been a little suspect in that department. As a whole, Minnesota is allowing 343 yards per game (227 yards passing, 116 yards rushing).
Vikings player to watch: RB Adrian Peterson
Yes, the obvious name here, but Peterson will be the key to any chance of a Minnesota victory. Peterson has been tremendous all season long and will need another big performance on Thursday night.
To go along with almost 1,200 rushing yards, Peterson has scored on eight occasions this season and has ripped off eight carries of 20 or more yards. He’ll need to add to those totals against the Cardinals defense.
As mentioned above the Cardinals’ run defense has also been tremendous, allowing less than 90 yards per contest. If Peterson is able to find success on the ground, it should open things up Bridgewater and the Minnesota passing attack – which we’d expect to make this outcome a bit closer than the experts think.
Prediction: Arizona 27 Minnesota 20