Given the recent inability of the Minnesota Vikings to cement their spot in the mix among the elite teams of the NFC with a pair of home losses to Green Bay and Seattle, the Vikings are prohibitive underdogs to the Arizona Cardinals tonight.
Just read the “By the Numbers” below and you’ll understand why, even at full strength – much less the duct tape being applied at the safety position – the Cardinals are more than a touchdown favorite.
The reality of the Vikings’ situation is that, while winning tonight would be a huge feather in the Vikings’ cap and give the team another reason to believe that it’s breaking the mold of Minnesota teams of the recent past, it likely isn’t going to be necessary.
With four games to go, it seems almost inevitable that the Vikings and Packers game in Week 17 is going to be for the NFC North title.
Both the Vikings and Packers will be playing in Arizona. The result of both those games may well be the same. The Vikings play their next two games against the Bears and Giants at home. Both have been more beatable by their first 12 opponents.
Just about any way you slice it, unless one or the other runs the table in the next three games or one of them goes 0-3, all signs point to the Vikings and Packers in Week 17 being for the NFC North title.
The logistics of the NFL say it will be so. If the Vikings and Packers are within one game of each other on Jan. 3, that game will be for all the marbles in the division.
With any luck, it will be played in prime time like tonight’s game is. Fans don’t want to see a lame one-and-done from the last man standing NFC East. Football fans have watched that Unfabulous Four lose often enough.
Things don’t look good for the Vikings heading into the Valley of the Sun as it sets tonight. A win would make Vikings fans ecstatic, but the pulse on this game is as low as it’s been all season for the fan base. They expected the Vikings likely wouldn’t beat Denver in Denver.
Other than that?
Purple Kool Aid all around.
If the Vikings don’t win tonight – and shaking the Magic 8-Ball isn’t coming up with “All Signs Point To Yes” – it won’t be the end of the world.
If they win, it won’t be a coffin nail for the Packers.
The reality is that the 2015 season for both the Vikings and Packers is going to include a trip to Arizona in December and potentially either of them could make a return trip to Glendale in January on the road to the Super Bowl.
Who that might be won’t be determined tonight. It likely will be determined Jan. 3.
VIKINGS-CARDINALS BY THE NUMBERS
- The Vikings have the 30th-ranked offense (5th rushing, 31st passing) and the 15th-ranked defense (22nd rushing, 6th passing).
- The Cardinals have the top-ranked offense (8th rushing, 3rd passing) and the fourth-ranked defense (4th rushing, 8th passing).
- Arizona is averaging 420 yards a game (300 passing, 120 rushing). Minnesota is averaging 316 yards a game (179 passing, 139 rushing).
- The Cardinals are allowing 317 yards a game (228 passing, 87 rushing). The Vikings are allowing 342 yards a game (226 passing, 116 rushing).
- Arizona and Minnesota are tied for 10th place in takeaway/giveaway ratio at plus-3. The Cardinals have 22 takeaways and 19 giveaways. The Vikings have 15 takeaways and 12 giveaways.
- Arizona is 11th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 31 of 51 possessions (60.8 percent). Minnesota is 29th at 43.3 percent (13 touchdowns in 30 possessions).
- No team has been in the red zone more often than Arizona.
- Defensively, the Vikings are fifth in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on 16 of 34 red zone possessions (47.1 percent). The Cardinals are 24th at 61.8 percent (allowing touchdowns on 21 of 34 possessions).
- Arizona is first in third-down offense, converting on 69 of 149 opportunities (46.3 percent). Minnesota is 24th at 36.2 percent (54 of 149). The league average is 38.7 percent.
- The Cardinals are second in third-down defense, allowing conversions on 50 of 155 opportunities (32.3 percent). The Vikings are 10th at 57 of 155 opportunities (36.8 percent).
- Minnesota leads the league in average starting field position following kickoffs with an average point of the 25.3-yard line, more than a yard better than any other team in the league and well above the league average of the 21.7-yard line. Arizona is 11th with an average starting position of the 22.2-yard line.
- Carson Palmer has eight 300-yard passing games. Teddy Bridgewater has one.
- The Vikings have allowed just one 300-yard passer. The Cardinals have allowed three.
- The Cardinals have a whopping nine 100-yard receiving games – three from Larry Fitzgerald, three from Michael Floyd, two from John Brown and one from J.J. Nelson. The Vikings have three – two from Stefon Diggs and one from Kyle Rudolph.
- Both Minnesota and Arizona have allowed three 100-yard receivers.
- Adrian Peterson has six 100-yard rushing games. Injured Cardinals running back Chris Johnson has three.
- The Vikings have allowed five 100-yard rushers. The Cardinals have allowed just one.
- Palmer is 12th in pass attempts (418), tied for 10th in completions (267), third in yards (3,693), second in touchdown passes (29), tied for 13th in interceptions (9) and second in passer rating (106.3).
- Bridgewater is 22nd in pass attempts (347), 20th in completions (225), 24th in yards (2,398), tied for 29th in TD passes (8), 12th in interceptions (8) and 28th in passer rating (83.0).
- Palmer is fourth in fourth-quarter passer rating at 112.2. Bridgewater is 26th with a rating of 82.1.
- Palmer is second in third-quarter passer rating at 121.8. Bridgewater is 16th with a rating of 86.4.
- Peterson leads the NFL in rushing through 12 games with 1,182 yards – 49 yards more than Doug Martin of Tampa Bay. Johnson leads the Cardinals with 814, which currently ranks him sixth, but will continue to drop since he is expected to miss at least the rest of the regular season.
- Fitzgerald is third in the league in receptions with 91. Brown is 42nd with 51 receptions. Diggs leads the Vikings with 42 receptions, which ties him for 61st place.
- Fitzgerald is seventh in receiving yards with 1,047 yards. Brown is tied for 20th with 817 yards. Diggs is 39th with 626 yards.
- David Johnson is third in the league in scoring among non-kickers with 54 points (four rushing touchdowns, four receiving touchdowns and one kickoff return for a touchdown). Peterson is tied for fourth in scoring with 48 points (eight rushing touchdowns).
- Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro is third in scoring among kickers with 108 points. Blair Walsh is tied for 11th with 92 points.
- Peterson leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,371 (1,182 rushing, 189 receiving) – 33 yards more than Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. Fitzgerald is 11th with 1,047 yards (all receiving).
- The numbers will tell you that Thursday will be a meeting of two of the league’s worst punters. Arizona’s Drew Butler is 29th in punting average at 42.6 yards. Jeff Locke is last at 41.7 yards – a full seven yards less than league leader Matt Bosher of the Falcons.
- Locke is 28th in net punting average at 37.8 yards. Butler is last at 36.0 yards.
- Marcus Sherels in 10th in punt return average at 10.0 yards. Patrick Peterson is 16th with an average of 8.6 yards.
- Cordarrelle Patterson leads the NFL in kickoff return average at 31.1 yards. Johnson is fourth with an average of 27.2 yards.
- Arizona’s Rashad Johnson is tied for third in the league with five interceptions. Tyrann Mathieu is tied for eighth with five. Terence Newman is tied for 15th with three interceptions.
- Everson Griffen is tied for 11th in sacks with 7½. Nobody from the Cardinals has more than three sacks.