Cardinals vs. Vikings: The matchup

Oct 19, 2012, 9:37 PM | Updated: 9:38 pm

CARDINALS VS VIKINGS

Category Cardinals Vikings
Points per game 18.3 24.3
Passing yards per game 199.8 230.2
Rushing yards per game 83.2 126.7
Total yards per game 283.0 356.8
Points against 16.2 19.5
Passing yards per game against 216.0 217.7
Rushing yards per game against 113.3 96.0
Total yards per game against 329.3 313.7

When Cardinals have the ball:

Thus far this season, little good has happened when the Cardinals have been on offense.

And now they’re without their starting quarterback. Who was the backup. But then was the starter.

John Skelton gets another shot at leading the Cardinals, and he’ll make his first start since Week 1 against a team with one of the better defenses in the league. His numbers this season have been less-than-impressive (16-of-38 for 194 yards with 2 INT), but to be fair there’s a small sample size with which to judge.

He may be helped by a resurgent running game — or, rather, a running game — as the Cardinals found some success last week giving the ball to William Powell (70 yards on 13 carries). The Vikings do a good job of bottling up the run, but Arizona must establish at least the threat of the ground game to help buy Skelton a little more time to find receivers down the field.

Should that happen, one can expect Larry Fitzgerald to have a good game. The Minneapolis native has tallied three 100-yard games in five career meetings against his hometown team, and the young Vkings secondary, which features veteran Antoine Winfield and a bunch of youth, is not really equipped to deal with a player of Fitzgerald’s caliber.

Given that much of the focus will be on Fitzgerald, there’s a chance Arizona’s secondary targets (Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Michael Floyd, Todd Heap, Rob Housler) could find themselves pretty involved in the passing game.

Of course, it’s all contingent on the offensive line giving the quarterback time to throw the ball. Jared Allen (4 sacks) is one of the best in the NFL at getting to the passer, and with the way Arizona’s line has played it’s tough to imagine him not having a big game Sunday.

When the Vikings have the ball:

It used to be that the Minnesota Vikings’ offense was based around running back Adrian Peterson, with a little bit of Adrian Peterson thrown in on the side.

That’s still true. Sort of.

The stud back has amassed 499 yards on 113 carries (4.4 per) in his first season back from a catastrophic knee injury, and while he has not been as dominant as in the past (just 2 touchdowns), he is still very much a big part of the offense. But he’s not the offense.

Second-year pro Christian Ponder has done a very good job at quarterback for the team, completing 68.6 percent of his passes to go along with 8 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. He can run a little, too, and provides the team with the QB play they lacked the last couple of seasons. He’s been sacked just 13 times this year, but it’s imperative the Cardinals get to him (we’re talking to you, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield) to throw the youngster off his rhythm.

Should that not happen, Ponder will look often to Percy Harvin. A dynamic player, the former Florida star leads the NFL with 49 catches. He doesn’t do much damage deep (just 11 yards per catch), but the Vikings like to get him the ball in space and let him go to work. He’ll also get carries out of the backfield, so the point is they do everything possible to get the ball in his hands. The task of slowing the electric Harvin will likely be left to Patrick Peterson. Good luck, PP21.

If Ponder is not throwing the ball to Harvin it will likely go to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Also a second-year pro, the former Notre Dame star leads the team with five touchdown catches. At 6-foot-6 he makes a great red-zone target, so if the Vikings get close look for the ball to go his way. This will be a player to watch, because with Arizona’s linebackers needing to respect Peterson and the running game there may be some openings for Rudolph to do some damage.

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