Arizona Cardinals vs Minnesota Vikings: Key Matchups

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Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

David Johnson and the running game have to get going.

Arizona is in the bottom half of the league in terms of rushing yards as a team. Johnson has been terrific, and is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards, tied for second in rushing touchdowns, and fourth in yards per game. His 4.3 yards per carry isn’t quite as impressive, but there’s no doubting that Johnson is doing his part.

No running back can carry the load alone, but behind the second-year starter, it hasn’t been pretty. Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington are the only other running backs on the team with more than 10 carries on the season. Both are averaging less than four yards per carry.

The other big factor in the running game is the offensive philosophy the team employs. They tend to lean more heavily on Palmer and the passing game, and less on the run. The Cardinals are 18th in the league in rushing attempts, meaning Bruce Arians and the coaching staff might be holding back the running game as much as any defense.

For its part, the Vikings run defense is very good. They rank in the top ten in yards allowed on the ground (873), yards per game allowed (97.0), and rushing touchdowns allowed (4). Minnesota defensive tackle Linval Joseph has been a big part of the reason the Vikings run defense has been solid.

If the Cardinals can establish the ground game, it will open things up for Palmer, and they can make the Vikings offense have to play catch-up, something they haven’t done well so far this season.