The Vikings' loss before a national television audience could have an affect on people's perceptions of them and the Cardinals.
The Arizona Cardinals made a strong statement Sunday night that could impact the NFC on three significant fronts.
Their 30-17 manhandling of Minnesota in primetime might have dealt a serious blow to New Orleans' chances of a perfect regular season. Combined with the Saints' comeback victory in Washington, New Orleans now has a two-game lead in the race for home-field advantage. Pressure will only increase for coach Sean Payton to rest some of his regulars should the Saints secure the top spot in the NFC.
Brett Favre looked every day of 40 years old. He was rattled by the Cardinals pass rush, confused by their coverage schemes and lacked accuracy. Critics who had wondered if Favre would fade down the stretch were shooed away by those who believed his swoon last season was due primarily to his injured throwing shoulder.
But it's worth noting he threw six touchdowns vs. five interceptions in December 2007 - the last time he was considered an MVP candidate. His passer rating also declined every month of the 2006 season and he threw no touchdowns against nine interceptions in December 2005.
The most important lesson Sunday involved the Cardinals themselves. Everyone knows how potent their offense is. But defensive coordinator Bill Davis has a rapidly-improving unit that stifled All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson and then mixed up coverages and pressure packages all night. If Arizona can keep up the defensive intensity, it will join the Vikings and Saints among the top NFC contenders.
Not listed in that group was any team from the NFC East. Just as Dallas was beginning to assert itself, the Cowboys blew a 10-0 lead on the road and let the Giants back into the playoff picture. The Cowboys still lead the division, but face a daunting schedule down the stretch and Philadelphia's trip to Giants Stadium next Sunday night is shaping up as a critical battle.
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips deflected several postgame questions regarding Dallas' notorious December struggles in recent seasons.
"The Cardinals went all the way last year winning only one game in December and the Giants went all the way the year before winning two games in December," said Phillips. "I'm just saying we're playing games. We're playing tough teams. We played a tough team on the road and they ended up beating us whatever date this is. We've got another game next week and we're going to try to win that ball game."