NFL: MINNESOTA at ARIZONA (8:15 PM ET, NBC)

NFL: MINNESOTA at ARIZONA (8:15 PM ET, NBC)

Minnesota isn’t one of the NFL unbeaten teams after 11 games, but it very well could be the league’s best team. After a dominant 3-game homestand, the 10-1 Vikings will hit the road for a trip to Arizona. They are a field goal favorite and the chances of


2009-12-04

Minnesota isn’t one of the NFL unbeaten teams after 11 games, but it very well could be the league’s best team. After a dominant 3-game homestand, the 10-1 Vikings will hit the road for a trip to Arizona. They are a field goal favorite and the chances of winning hinge much on the status of Cardinals’ QB Kurt Warner, who missed last game with concussion symptoms. He was listed as probable at last check and could make Arizona a worthy home dog selection at Sportsbook.com.

The Cardinals come off a heartbreaking last-second loss to the Titans, but still remain in control of the NFC West Division at 7-4. Minnesota doesn’t figure to be a good matchup for any team right now, but in terms of trends, the Cardinals are 12-1 ATS vs. teams averaging >=7 yards per pass attempt, and 13-5 ATS against teams with a winning record under Ken Whisenhunt. However, the Vikings have taken seven of the L8 head-to-head matchups outright and are 6-2 ATS in that span. They are 4-1 SU & ATS in road games in ’09, winning by 11.6 PPG.

The switch from a late afternoon start to Sunday night shows the importance this game has as a preview to a possible playoff matchup down the road. Minnesota has utilized its final piece of the puzzle—Brett Favre—to post an impressive 10-1 record, while Arizona has overcome the moniker of a “one-hit wonder” to stay atop the NFC West and get back to the postseason.

The two teams met in the desert late last season, a game in which the Vikings dominated in a 35-14 stomping of the then-sagging Cardinals. It was a game that saw the victors score 21 points in the first quarter alone as well as then-starter Tarvaris Jackson tossing four touchdown passes. Arizona also had few answers for Adrian Peterson’s 165 rushing yards, while the Minnesota stop unit held superstar wideout Larry Fitzgerald to only five catches for 52 yards.

Like 2008, the Cardinals have dabbled with bouts of inconsistency, especially at home, but head coach Ken Whisenhunt has kept the team on track when things look like they could derail.

Quarterback Kurt Warner (concussion) sat out last week’s tough 20-17 loss at Tennessee, and Arizona is going to need Warner to stay healthy to go anywhere in January, especially since backup Matt Leinart has struggled. The problem for the Cardinals has been their play at home, where three losses were accumulated in the first half of the season.

Aside from the hiccup in Pittsburgh, the Vikings have steamrolled every foe that has come their way and Favre’s ability to enhance the passing game has made head coach Brad Childress’ team awfully tough to stop. The savvy veteran has made the likes of Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe look like All-Pros, while rookie Percy Harvin added another killer dimension on third downs as well as the return game.
Defensively, the matchup between the Arizona air attack and Minnesota’s stellar pass defense should be a sight to behold. The Vikings can get to the passer with Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, meaning Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin must get open in a hurry. Luckily, Childress will have the services of Antoine Winfield in the secondary for the first time in five games. This is vital since the Cardinals also like to use wideout Steve Breaston.

PREDICTION: It will interesting to see if Arizona can shake off its home woes for a worthy opponent like Minnesota, which came in here last year and simply dominated from the opening kick. It’ll be closer this time, but the Vikings still boast too much talent. MINNESOTA 30, ARIZONA 24

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