The media is fickle. That much is a given. It is boggling though how former players and coaches alike, presumed experts about everything football and particularly NFL football, can give off such amateur assessments sometimes. The example I provide here is not even that shocking necessarily, but it is relevant anyway. Watch this clip before reading on.
So the conclusion by our ESPN analysts is that the Vikings will win because:
1) The Vikings don't have any weaknesses.
2) Brett Favre is playing great.
3) Arizona has a 2-3 record at home.
4) The Vikings are great at stopping the run and rushing the passer.
Let me roll up my sleeves and tell you what is really going down.
1) The Vikings opponents have a combined record of 45-76. I would bet that has something to do with them appearing to not have any weaknesses.
2) Brett Favre is playing great. So is Kurt Warner. Favre has 2,874 yards passing with 24 TDs and 3 INTs, while Warner 2,718 yards with 20 TDs and 11 INTs. One thing not addressed likely falls more on the Vikings O-line more so than Favre, but it is still worth pointing out that he has been sacked 22 times compared to Warner's 16. Is there an obvious, huge advantage for the Vikings here that I am missing?
3) Arizona is 2-3 at home, which means they are 5-1 on the road. Yeah, and? Being that winning on the road is tougher to do, I fail to see how playing at home demonstrates an additional obstacle for Arizona? The 2-3 record does not cause a mental handicap for the players, as the Cardinals fans remember vividly watching the Cardinals play very well at home last season. Sure, it is unfortunate that Arizona had their worst three games of the season on their own field, but it is nothing that will cause anyone wearing red and white to think twice about.
4) The Vikings are the No.2 ranked rushing defense with 898 yards allowed on the season, and the Cardinals are the No.13 ranked squad having given up 1195 yards. No one will deny that Minnesota's rush defense is stout, but remember, statistics can be used to prove anything. It would be an incomplete analysis to fail to mention that teams have run on Arizona 36 more times, which can partially explain the extra 297 yards accrued by their opponents.
If you take the average yards per carry that Minnesota has allowed (3.9) and multiply that by 36, you get just over 140 yards. Hypothetically speaking, if the Vikings had been run on 36 more times, the bottom line is that Cardinals would have given up 157 more yards on the ground in the same amount of chances.
How much of an advantage do the Vikings actually have in rush defense? Well, who have they faced?
Although neither string of names is one you wish to face, Arizona's opponents have featured four of the top six running backs in the league this season, and Chris Johnson needs an asterisk. He is on pace to break the record for the most rushing yards in a single NFL season.
How much better is the Vikings' run defense compared to the Cardinals'? Taking everything into account, just a little bit.
How about their fierce pass rush?
Well, the Vikings do have the most sacks in the league with 40, but Arizona has 32, which is tied for third most in the league. Factor in the fact that Favre has been laid down six more times than Warner, and this is essentially a toss-up.
Again I ask, where is this huge Minnesota advantage that the media will have you believe clearly exists?