The Arizona Cardinals are facing a gargantuan task in Week 8 as they square off against the 5-1 Minnesota Vikings. Can they pull it out?
The Arizona Cardinals play well on the road, despite losing 19-9 in their previous road trip in Week 6. But they didn’t have DeAndre Hopkins in that matchup, and we all know just how well Hopkins can transform even the bleakest offenses in football.
With Hopkins’ presence, the Redbirds exploded for their first 30-point outing (defense put up 12 points), but the Minnesota Vikings have their own young version of Hopkins in Justin Jefferson. Can the Cardinals stop him? Let’s take a closer look.
Inside look at the Arizona Cardinals opponent: Passing offense
Kirk Cousins isn’t elevating anyone’s talent, but he can produce and is one of the best in league history in regards to quarterbacks drafted on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. Two reasons for his success? Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Jefferson has an outstanding 46 receptions and a 73.0% catch percentage. His 14.2 yards per reception also tells us he’s a threat to snag a first down every time Cousins targets him. Thielen isn’t the player he once was, but remains effective with 29 catches in six games and a pair of touchdowns.
Who am I concerned with more than any other? Believe it or not, Irv Smith. Despite just 18 catches and two touchdowns, Smith can make life miserable for linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who, despite scoring last Thursday on a pick six, is allowing an 81% completion percentage, and a staggering 9.1 yards per target. Yikes!
It’s best if the Cardinals put a safety over Smith if the Vikings target him in and around the red zone, since Zaven Collins has not fared any better in pass coverage.
Few running backs are better in the game than Dalvin Cook. How good is the Vikings featured back? So good, no one else on Minnesota has logged 30 carries yet this season. Cook has 94 of them for 450 yards, four touchdowns, and a remarkable 4.8 yards per carry.
The Vikings, however, don’t run as often as you may think with a good back like Cook, with 137 rushing attempts compared to 230 passing attempts. But when they give Cook the ball, he is a threat to take it to the house every time.
This is where the Vikings are weak, but not weak where most average fans think they are. Instead, they can be torched through creating mismatches with Cam Dantzler, who is currently giving up a 77.4% completion percentage and a 98.2 quarterback rating.
The Vikings also have a fair pass rush that is tied for 10th in the league with several teams for 17 sacks. However, they don’t get as much pressure on quarterbacks as their sack numbers indicate, as they are 20th in the league in pressure percentage.
Like their passing defense, the Vikings have a serviceable, but not spectacular rushing defense, allowing 112.5 yards per game. They have, however, allowed the sixth-highest total of rushing touchdowns.
They also have a pair of experienced inside linebackers in Jordan Hicks (you might know him) and Eric Kendricks, who have a combined 107 tackles on the season. However, many of these tackles are coming downfield as they are ineffective in stopping opposing running backs behind the line. And that can work wonders for the Arizona Cardinals.
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(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)