Saturday, November 19, 2016

Vikings vs. Cardinals Preview

Nov 13, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs with the ball as Washington Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller (38) chases in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After losing four straight games, the Vikings have the chance to get back on track against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Daniel House previews the game and provides his keys to a Minnesota victory. 

Updated: November 19th, 2016 4:30pm

By: Daniel House

After losing four straight games, the Vikings have the chance to get back on track against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. With their record sitting at 5-4, the Vikings are treading water and need to put together a stretch of wins quickly. It won't be easy against an Arizona team coached by Bruce Arians. The Cards haven't been the same team this year, but still have a solid secondary and a few weapons to keep track of on offense. The Vikings need to find an identity on offense and start closing on situations in the red zone. Not to mention, the defense needs to limit the big plays the Cardinals make on offense. This has been an issue for the Vikings over the last few weeks. It will be important to contain Cardinals running back David Johnson if they want to have a chance in this game.

Containing David Johnson
As I noted in the opening of this piece, containing David Johnson will be one of the biggest keys to a Vikings victory on Sunday. Johnson has two 100-yard rushing performances in two of his last four games and is known for making big plays in the Arizona offense. He has 11 total touchdowns this year and continues flash his play-making ability. Johnson is not only valuable on the ground, but he can create yardage in the passing game. He his averaging 62 yards per game through the air over the last three games and is so dangerous when he is isolated in space. The Vikings had trouble tackling Rob Kelley last week and will need to wrap Johnson up if they want to prevent the big plays that have plagued them over the last few weeks. Johnson is the biggest part of the offense and when you add weapons like Larry Fitzgerald, the opposing defense has to be ready to handle Arizona on offense.

Put pressure on Palmer
The Cardinals have allowed the fourth-most sacks and the Vikings need to get their pass rush back on track this week. The Vikings have just three sacks in their last four games and it has impacted the entire defense. They haven’t put pressure on the quarterback to force him into mistakes. The defensive backs are forced to cover up the field longer, which has led to more big plays for opposing offensive units. Carson Palmer is best when he has time to throw and go through his reads. When he is pressured, he forces throws into too many tight windows. Palmer has three interceptions over the last two games and the Vikings need to take advantage of his mistakes.

Passing against the Cards secondary 
The Cardinals secondary is loaded with talent. Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu highlight the group of defensive backs in Arizona. The Cardinals have the second-best opponent passing rating in the league. Opposing quarterbacks have a 71.2 passer rating against the Cardinals and they are completing just 58.3% of their passes. Minnesota will need to find Stefon Diggs in the soft zones of the coverage. It will be a tough matchup for Diggs as he squares off with Patrick Peterson, but all of the receivers will need to find a way to get open against a quietly successful Arizona secondary. However, Sam Bradford needs time to throw if this is going to happen.

Watch out for Chandler Jones
When Chandler Jones was with the New England Patriots, he tore the Vikings up at TCF Bank Stadium. He had two sacks and obliterated Matt Kalil all day. Jones is now with the Cardinals and will be licking his chops as he sees T.J. Clemmings lined up across from him. The Vikings need to be prepared for a Cardinals front that has tallied the fourth-most sacks, including three last week. Again, the Vikings have minimal continuity up front and are shuffling players around with Jake Long going down due to a season-ending injury. The offensive line was starting to improve with the quick passing game, but now they again will face continuity issues up front. Sam Bradford is best when he can get into a rhythm and has time to throw in the pocket. This has occurred on scattered occasions this season, but again, it all comes to consistency for the offensive line.

Kai Forbath time 
The Vikings released Blair Walsh earlier this week and signed Kai Forbath to patch the hole in the kicking game. Forbath is 4-for-7 in his career from 50+ yards and has six game-winning kicks. More importantly, he was 34-for-35 on extra points in 2015. Minnesota needs to start making these easy kicks to keep the momentum in their favor. Walsh was costly in multiple games and hopefully Kai Forbath can be the answer to the Vikings' kicking woes. If he misses an extra point in this game, U.S. Bank Stadium may come crumbling to the ground.

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