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Photo - azcardinals.com
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - Coming off one of the worst losses in recent memory, the Vikings return home this weekend looking to get back on track. Fortunately for Minnesota, they are facing a team that can't seem to get out of their own way right now and should aid them in their effort.
The Arizona Cardinals started the season 4-0 with notable wins against the Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. However, since beating the Dolphins in overtime of week four, the Cardinals have dropped two in a row to the St. Louis Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. Still, the Cardinals entered week seven in a three-way-tie atop the division and will also be looking to right their own ship of wayward sailors.
Sunday's matchup will also mark the fifth straight season that the Vikings and Cardinals have faced each other and the third straight season that the matchup has been held at Mall of America field. The two previous games in Minnesota have gone the way of the Vikings including a 34-10 lashing in 2011. Despite their recent success, the Vikings cannot afford to take the Cardinals lightly. They may not be a complete team, but aspects of their squad are dominant.
Here are some story lines to monitor heading into Sunday's game...
By week seven of the NFL season, most teams are dealing with a handful of injuries to their players. The Cardinals have been decimated by injuries so far this season. Starting running back Beanie Wells and backup running back Ryan Williams are both on the injured reserved list (wells is eligible to return after week 8) pushing LaRod Stephens-Howling and William Powell into a split backfield situation.
Last week, against the leagues worst rushing defense, Powell took 13 carries for 70 yards and Stephens-Howling chipped in with 11 carries for 22 yards. Neither managed to find the endzone and both will face the Vikings' top-10 rush defense this weekend on the road.
Lining up directly in front of the running backs, John Skelton has been pushed back into the starting quarterback position as Kevin Kolb could miss between six and eight weeks with a rib injury.
Skelton, who has also struggled through injuries this season, has only played in two games this year passing for only 194 yards and no touchdowns. His 42.1 completion percentage and 36.5 quarterback rating haven't helped his cause much either.
Call me crazy, but maybe Kevin Kolb's injury had something to do with the 22 sacks that his body has endured over the past three weeks. In total, the Cardinals offensive line has allowed 28 sacks on the season, a statistic that has Jared Allen and the Vikings d-line licking their chops. Losing left tackle Levi Brown for the season to a triceps injury has visibly hurt the Cardinals front line.
Seventh year tackle D'Anthony Batiste has allowed ten sacks to right side defensive ends this year and will square up against Jared Allen this weekend. Over on the right side, the Cardinals are starting rookie tackle Bobby Massie who has struggled equally. The combination of Jared Allen and Brian Robison has recorded five sacks already this year and looks to have a big week against a struggling front line.
The Cardinals carry a 4-2 record in to the Metrodome this weekend but not much of that is thanks to their offensive output. Averaging only 18.3 points per game on offense isn't going to win you too many games, but when your defense allows only 16.3 points per game you should be able to squeak out a few victories. Thus the Cardinals 4-2 record. To put this stat in context, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens offense that will be forever scrutinized for their mediocrity despite a Super Bowl championship, that team averaged more than 20 points per game.
The Vikings offense wouldn't exactly be considered high power but if they can manage to return to the consistency that lead them to a 4-1 record, they should be able to control the ball, protect the ball and dink-and-dunk the cardinals to death.