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Preview: Vikings vs Cardinals


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October 13th, 2018
By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
picture: vikings.com

Keys to beating the Arizona Cardinals
The Minnesota Vikings (2-2-1) come back home after 2 consecutive weeks on the road, a loss to the Rams and a win in Philly, to face the Arizona Cardinals (1-4) who are coming off a divisional win vs the Jimmy G-less 49ers. How do the Vikings beat the Cardinals and keep pace with the Bears and the Packers?

Avoid the trap

The Vikings are unquestionably the better of these two teams. There is little debate on that by either set of fans. The better team doesn't always win though. We saw that vs the Bills three weeks ago. After that game, the Vikings won't ever take a team with a rookie quarterback named Josh lightly. In this league, any team can beat another team on a given Sunday. In fact, it was the 4-12 Cardinals in 2003 who killed the Vikings playoffs hopes. The moral of the story: don’t underestimate any team in this league. As a wise man once said, “Finish every block. Finish every tackle. Finish every play, and finish the damn game.” The Vikings must follow this advice every game to have a successful season.

Protect Kirk Cousins 

This seems like a key every week. Although the Vikings quarterback is very good at avoiding the rush and making quick, efficient passes, Vikings fans can’t help but grimace every time Cousins hits the ground. The pass blocking has been way better than the run blocking, but the Vikings aren’t able to protect Cousins’ blind side. This has accounted for a couple of game changing fumbles this season. Take the Rams game, for example. The Vikings were down a touchdown and had almost a minute and a half to go down, score, and come away with the win. The protection and play on LT must get better to offer the rest of the offense a chance. As of right now, starting LT Riley Reiff has not practiced all week. He left the game vs Philadelphia in the first quarter and was replaced by T Rashod Hill, who will be going against star DE Chandler Jones.


Get the run game going
The Vikings still haven’t had a rushing touchdown. The current five week drought is the longest in franchise history. Starting RB Dalvin Cook practiced this week and is listed as questionable. It looks like he will play. Cook hasn’t played a full game since Week 2 vs the Packers when he got injured in overtime. Minnesota might have all four backs active on Sunday, allowing them to stay fresh.

Establishing the run game will also take some pressure off of Cousins. I would still expect the Vikings offense to primarily be an aerial attack, utilizing their two Ferraris on the outside in Thielen and Diggs.


Exploit the Cardinals interior line

The Cardinals have had struggles with the interior part of their line all season. Their starting center and guards have allowed a combined 40 pressures this season. This works perfectly for the Vikings stout defensive front, led by Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson who are looking to improve on their monster performance last Sunday. Mike Iupati has posted a grade of 24.3 grade on PFF and the center Mason Cole and guard Justin Pugh have posted equally abysmal grades of 31.5 and 48.3 respectively. This coupled with the facts that Josh Rosen the rookie starting quarterback for the Cardinals has posted a 30.3 passer rating when under pressure thus far. If the Vikings can get pressure with Joseph and Richardson early, it could lead to the young quarterback making some costly mistakes.

On the outside of the defensive line, both defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly, who is filling in for star defensive end Everson Griffen, have played outstanding. Hunter has had five sacks this season, one in each game, which is his longest streak. Weatherly had a sack vs the Bills, and a strip sack vs the Eagles. Expect them to keep up their production, even with the increased playing time.


Limit David Johnson

It is often said that a young quarterback’s greatest ally is his running back. If this is true, David Johnson is a great ally to have. Sure, he hasn't reached his 2016 level of productivity in his first season back off a wrist surgery. Sure, some of that is due to poor offensive line play and predictability in play calling, but he has to be respected by the defense just because of the potential threat he is. Look for the Cardinals to try to get the ball to him early and often on Sunday afternoon to establish a run game and potentially help Rosen buy more time with the play action fakes. If the Vikings can stop David Johnson early and put some points on the board, they can force Arizona to become more one dimensional, in order to play catch up, and pressure Rosen.


The Vikings hope to keep the momentum from their victory in Philadelphia last Sunday, and they hope to avoid another loss at home.



Predictions

Preet: Vikings 31- Cardinals 13

Tanishka: Vikings 30- Cardinals 14

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