Okay, this is it!
This is the game in which your Minnesota Vikings rip off a stunning string of twelve consecutive victories to win their division and gain a playoff berth.
Hey, Visanthe Shiancoe says it could happen. Who are we to disagree?
If the Shiancoe wants to paint that pie-in-the-sky portrait, he and his teammates better get their game on Sunday against a 1-3 Cardinals team that, like the Vikings, have sorely disappointed their fans.
We know what the Vikings need to do, the only question is whether or not they can do it.
Leslie Frazier has made no secret that the Vikings plan to get the ball to Bernard Berrian downfield and, significantly, Devin Aromashodu as well. But we’ve heard that line for a while now. If it turns out to be Aromashodu who is the one who steps up will that be enough for him to take over Berrian’s snaps?
The Cardinals’ pass rush has been inconsistent, they’ve struggled to actually apply pressure when they blitz, and they’ve got some young cornerbacks in rookie Patrick Peterson and banged up second year guy A.J. Jefferson who Donovan McNabb will want to test when they bring the blitz.
That’s a big, fat if, though.
If our offensive line can protect McNabb long enough for him to get the ball down field; if he does have the time, will he throw accurately; if he does get the ball to his receivers and they’re covered, will they fight for the ball?
I’d think the Vikes would also want to test Joey Porter down the seam with Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph.
But Arizona is allowing 105.5 yards rushing per game, so I’d expect to see plenty of Adrian Peterson mixed in with some Percy Harvin rushes, considering the success they had with the reverses last week.
On defense, of course, it’s all about shutting down Minneapolis’ own Larry Fitzgerald Jr. That, of course, will be tough because he’s an amazing receiver but a good way to start would be to get right up in Kevin Kolb‘s girll.
Jared Allen will line up against Levi Brown, a poor protector of his quarterback so expect Allen to get extra attention with chips by Beanie Wells and/or double teams. I’m confident, though, that regardless of what Arizona does to account for Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, and Everson Griffen et al will bring the heat.
But in order to apply pressure to Kolb, the Vikings must first shut down the Cardinals’ running game and Beanie Wells has been having a pretty good year so far, averaging 5.4 yards per carry with five touchdowns. It won’t be easy and the Vikings will need to do it all game long, which they haven’t proven they can do yet.
It will be doubly tough if Antoine Winfield is not on the field. If he’s not, Asher Allen should be in for a long day because I’d expect Kolb to target him early and often and for the Cardinals to try and get him matched up against Fitzgerald.
This is another game the Vikings could and should win but you know the story.
If they fall to 0-5, it is officially a rebuilding year.
The Vikings host the Arizona Cardinals at Mall of America Field on Sunday. Kickoff is at 12 PM CST and the game will be broadcast on Fox TV.
We get the “D Team” again: Your play-by-play guy will be Chris Myers and Tim Ryan will be your analyst with Drea Avent serving as the sideline “reporter.”
The radio broadcast is on KFAN-AM 1130/KTLK 100.3-FM locally with your usual crew of play-by-play guy Paul Allen, analyst Pete Bercich and sideline reporter Greg Coleman. Pre-game show starts at 10 AM CST.
Vikings: Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson has been dealing with swelling in his left leg all year but limiting his snaps last week seemed to help, so he should be good to go, as should punter Chris Kluwe, who is nursing a sore right hamstring. Cornerback Antoine Winfield has a neck injury which may necessitate a game time decision on whether or not he’ll play.
Opponent: Tight end Todd Heap has a hamstring strain and is probably a game time decision; fellow tight end Jim Dray (pectoral) did not practice Thursday. Punter Dave Zastudil has swelling in his right knee and may miss Sunday’s game.
Wide receivers Early Doucet (hamstring) and Chansi Stuckey (hamstring), cornerback A.J. Jefferson (ankle), linebacker Joey Porter (knee), center Lyle Sendlein (elbow) and running back Beanie Wells (hamstring) were all limited yesterday.
Happy Birthday tomorrow to linebacker Kenny Onatolu (29)!