Division Leaders Square Off in the Desert

The Arizona Cardinals get a taste of the postseason in the coming weeks as they'll face two consecutive playoff caliber teams. Arizona welcomes the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday while they head back east to battle the New England Patriots in Week 16. Brad Wilbricht continues his weekly scouting report as he breaks down Minnesota's roster.

The Minnesota Vikings enter Sunday's game in first place in the NFC North Division and currently hold a one-game lead over the Chicago Bears. While this week's matchup will acclimate both teams to a playoff atmosphere, there are also major implications for postseason positioning. The winner will have a significant advantage in locking up the number three seed in the NFC.

Outside of an upset against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6, the Cardinals have failed to win games in which they're not expected to prevail. Arizona's last four wins have come within in the division where their competition has a combined record of only 9-30. The Cardinals must find a way to win against a worthy opponent in order to enter the playoffs with confidence.

Minnesota QB Gus Frerotte is out with a back injury this week and former starter Tarvaris Jackson will be under center. Jackson was benched following a 0-2 start due to wildly inconsistent and unproductive play. In limited action, Jackson has been sacked six times and has a QB rating of just 77.1. The Vikings' front office envisioned Jackson as their franchise quarterback; however his struggles have derailed those long-term plans.


RB Adrian Peterson
(Getty)

Fortunately for Jackson, he has the luxury of handing off to arguably the best running back in the NFL. Adrian Peterson leads the league in rushing (1,413) and has reached pay dirt nine times this season. In addition to Peterson, RB Chester Taylor is an extremely reliable backup. Taylor has racked up 637 total yards and has scored five touchdowns on the year.

WR Bernard Berrian supplies Minnesota with the legitimate deep threat they've been lacking since Randy Moss left town. Berrian has reeled in 41 passes for 824 yards and five touchdowns. His 20.1-yard per reception currently ranks second in the league and Berrian's 99-yard touchdown grab in Week 13 against Chicago is the NFL's longest play from scrimmage this season.

On defense, the Vikings are limiting their opponents to a mere 291 yards per game, including just 73 yards on the ground. Furthermore, they've accumulated 37 sacks and have intercepted 11 passes on the year. Despite their opportune defensive play, Minnesota's offense has struggled in pass protection and limiting its turnovers. The Cardinals' defense may be in store for a big day as the Vikings' offensive attack has allowed 35 sacks and has been picked off 16 times.

LB Chad Greenway leads Minnesota with 94 tackles while adding six tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles. DE Jared Allen is a force to be reckoned with and will likely wreak havoc on Arizona QB Kurt Warner all afternoon. Allen has complied 12.5 sacks on the season, good for fifth best in the league. Additionally, defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams avoided a pending suspension for violating the league's anti-doping policy and fortify the Vikings' tremendous defensive line.


Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com

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