The Minnesota Vikings (10-1) travel to Glendale, AZ to take on the Arizona Cardinals (7-4) in a game that could determine playoff positioning. Realistically, if the Cardinals had a chance at catching up to the Vikings or Saints they would've needed a win in Tennessee. Instead they're playing keep away from the 49ers with the division lead and a win on Sunday night would certainly help that cause. The biggest headline going into the game is the status of Kurt Warner. Kurt suffered a concussion two weeks ago against the Rams and concussion-like symptoms kept him out of action last week against the Titans. Luckily, Matt Leinart has been sharing practice time with Warner this week and should be better prepared if Warner is not able to suit up. Here are the keys to success:
Kurt Warner needs to play this week. Without Warner the offense is not as explosive and cannot put up the points it needs to stay ahead of the other team. Having Kurt Warner on the field improves the production of the rest of the offense. With Jared Allen looming ahead the Cardinals need Warner's quick release and pocket presence to avoid a multiple sack day for Allen. Matt Leinart should be prepared for Sunday if Warner can't play but at this point in the season Kurt Warner gives the Cardinals the best chance to win.
Left tackle will need support. The obvious reason why is Jared Allen lining up on the other side. Mike Gandy has been battling a pelvis injury for some time and was forced to miss a portion of the Titans game last week. Gandy was never a dominant left tackle but was adequate enough to protect Kurt Warner's blind side. Now with Gandy hurt, Jeremy Bridges will be inserted into the offensive line against one of the best defensive ends in the game. Bridges quietly entered the game last week and did a great job and with more practice this week, his solid play will need to carry on to Sunday night.
Don't quit on the running game. It's likely that Cardinals running backs will struggle with the "Williams Wall" and the Vikings defense coming to town. The Cardinals performance last week seemed uncanny as they had topped 120+ yards in their previous 3 games (it's not a coincidence all 3 were wins). This week, taking pressure off whichever quarterback lines up under center will be vital which is why the Cardinals shouldn't abandon the run. Obviously going nowhere or gaining 1-2 yard carries would hurt their chances but just keeping the Vikings defense honest to the run will help tremendously. If the Cardinals do eclipse 100 yards it will be because they won the game.
The play of the defensive backs. The Cardinals defensive backs have had the problems stopping passing quarterbacks. Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck, Jay Cutler, and even Marc Bulger passed successfully against the Cardinals. The key to limiting passing yards is getting pressure on the quarterback. When the Cardinals blitz more it's evident that the defensive backs have more success. If the Cardinals can force Favre to scramble and throw ill-advised passes it will greatly improve their chances of winning.
Win one for the homefield. This same team beat the Cardinals at home last year pretty handily. The Cardinals have also not fared well on their home turf and the last time they played at home on Sunday night the Colts dominated that game. Keeping the home crowd in the game until the end is important but beating the Vikings on Sunday night in front of everyone is a huge step in the right direction.
If the Cardinals can stay healthy and not make any mistakes they can keep this match up competitive. What are your keys to the game and why?