This week, in preparation for the Sunday matchup between the 1-3 Arizona Cardinals and 0-4 Minnesota Vikings, we have teamed up as we do every week with the SB Nation team blog of the opponent. This week it is with Daily Norseman. This week it is Eric Thompson who joins us. we thank him for his time and for sharing insight that only a cold Minnesota fan could have.
Hit the jump for what he had to say and what we had to ask!
Just about everyone has seen enough of McNabb. He just doesn't have it anymore. While putting all the blame for the team's woes at his feet is probably unfair, McNabb has constantly come up small in the biggest moments. His two favorite receivers this season have been the turf and the two feet of air above receivers' heads. Personally, I'd like to see Christian Ponder sit a while longer only because of the lockout-shortened preseason. He's had only two months to try and learn the offense, which is probably the biggest reason why Leslie Frazier is still trotting out McNabb this week. With an 0-4 record and four games back of two teams in our own division, any chances at the postseason are already pretty shot. I'm OK with playing McNabb for a while longer until it's clear that Ponder is ready, especially with the problems the offensive line has had protecting the quarterback.
If the unthinkable happens and the Vikings do end up with the #1 pick (remember there are still teams like the Colts, Dolphins, and Seahawks out there), I still think they'd have to pick Andrew Luck. I think Ponder has the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback; we pretty much know that Andrew Luck does.
Aren't we all glad that McNabb was not the target of the Cardinals?
What exactly has happened to the team, especially to the defense that was once dominating?
I wish I could tell you exactly what's wrong. I'm sure Leslie Frazier and the rest of his coaching staff would agree. The most frustrating thing about the awful start has been the fact that the Vikings had excellent chances to win each game. It would be one thing to just flat-out suck, but the Vikings keep insisting on torturing their fans with such perplexing performances. If I had to pick a main area of concern besides McNabb's play, I'd say the offensive line, which has taken a big step back. Steve Hutchinson is still solid, but he's showing his age. Anthony Herrera is returning from a torn ACL. Phil Loadholt is still getting way too many penalties called on him. Bryant McKinnie showing up overweight and being replaced by Charlie Johnson really hurt.
On the defensive side, the secondary hasn't been dominating for years. Outside of Antoine Winfield, the back line is full of question marks. I think the front seven is still a formidable unit, but they lack depth, especially at linebacker. When your offense goes three and out so often in the second half, you're bound to get tired. In my opinion, being on the field way too much late in games has hurt the defense more than anything.
I just read that Winfield is out, so Kolb might be able to find open receivers all over the place.
What bright spots, if any have there been for the team?
Wow, tough question! Well, there's always that running back of ours that's pretty decent. Just like Larry Fitzgerald does for your team, there are always a few plays a game where we say "only Adrian could have done that". Michael Jenkins has been a mild surprise at wide receiver. Percy Harvin hasn't been bothered by migraines like he has in the past, and last week showed that the coaches are figuring out creative ways to get him the ball. Jared Allen can still get to the quarterback. Chad Greenway is still tackling everything in sight. There are plenty of bright spots on this team--unfortunately they can't seem to get over the hump yet.
Interesting -- sounds very familiar. I personally think that the team had to sell its soul for Brett Favre's season in 2009.
Who are the players for Arizona fans to watch for? What do you think the plan of attack will be offensive/defensively?
I've really liked what I've seen out of rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph so far. He only has seven catches but it's tough to rack up big stats with the passing attack in shambles like it is. Rudolph has made a some spectacular grabs on (surprise) poorly thrown passes and it looks like he's going to be more and more involved in the offense going forward. I wouldn't be surprised to see Rudolph be a big target in the red zone this week with his combination of size and hands. I think the Vikings will be most successful against the Cardinals if they utilize Rudolph and Visanthe Shiancoe in the passing game while pounding the ball with Adrian Peterson as much as possible.
On the defensive side, watch for Brian Robison. The Vikings weren't too concerned about letting Ray Edwards leave to Atlanta in the offseason because they knew that had a solid starter just waiting for his opportunity. If the Vikings want to record their first win on Sunday, Robison will need to have a big game as Jared Allen's pass rushing bookend. This holds especially true in the second half, where the pass rush and results have both gone south during the first four games. When it comes to game planning, I think it's all about bottling up Fitzgerald and Beanie Wells. Calvin Johnson absolutely destroyed the Vikings in the second half two weeks ago, and Fitz can make the same types of catches. The Vikings are historically stout against the run, but it hasn't been as automatic this year. If they can keep everything in front of them and prevent the big play, they'll have a chance.
Anything Johnson can do, Fitz can do better...
What is your game prediction and why?
If this one was in Arizona, I'd have no problem with picking the Cardinals here. And you'd think I would have learned my lesson by now after four straight letdowns. However, I'm obviously a slow learner--I'm going to pick the Vikes. Why? Because I think (OK you got me...I hope) that Leslie Frazier & company will figure out how to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers early and often. Because the Vikings have come so close to winning all four games even though McNabb's play can only improve from here. Because I'm not sold on Kevin Kolb yet. Because while I think Fitzgerald will get his numbers, the Vikings are more than capable of shutting down the other Arizona weapons. And finally, because if we go into back-to-back games against Chicago and Green Bay without a victory, I'm going to have to start hiding all the sharp objects in my house.
Prediction: Vikings 23, Cardinals 20
Funny...if the Cardinals lose, I might have to hide sharp objects as well.
We thank Eric again. Check out Daily Norseman to see what is happening over there in Vikings land.