It is game day! The only game on in the NFL is the one tonight between the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football. It is a game in which seven starters between the two teams will be out, but it is still a potential playoff preview. Arizona can clinch a postseason berth with a victory and reduce their magic number to one for winning the NFC West. Minnesota wants to keep pace in the playoff race. They currently are a wild card team despite being tied for first in the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay currently holds a head-to-head tie breaker.
Let's take a look at tonight's matchup:
The two teams meet for the 24th time in the regular season. The Vikings lead the all-time series 13-10. Minnesota is also 2-0 against the Cardinals in the postseason. However, Arizona is 6-6 at home against the Vikes. They first met in 1963, a game the Vikings won handily, 56-14. The last time the two teams met was in 2012. The Vikings won that game 21-14 in Minnesota. The Cardinals were in the middle of a long losing streak at that point. Arizona hasn't defeated Minnesota since 2009.
The game features two great defenses, but only one good offense.
Arizona is first in the NFL in scoring, averaging nearly 32 points per game. Minnesota struggles to score points, averaging just under 20 a game. The Cardinals have scored 45 touchdown. Minnesota only has 24. The Cardinals are tops in offensive yardage, gaining nearly 420 per game, while the Vikings are third to last, averaging over 315.
What Minnesota does do well is run the ball. With the league's top rusher in Adrian Peterson, the Vikings average nearly 137 yards per game on the ground -- good for fourth in the league. They are second to last in passing offense, throwing for less than 180 yards per game.
Arizona is balanced. They rush for over 120 yards a game (eighth in the league) and pass for nearly 300 (third in the league).
Defensively, they are even. Both team are tied for fourth in the league in scoring defense, giving up 19.3 points per game. They each have given up seven rushing touchdowns and 17 passing touchdowns.
How they do it is different. Arizona also stops teams from gaining yards. They are fourth in yards allowed (under 317) while the Vikings are 15th, giving up more than 342 per game. Arizona is fourth against the run and eighth against the pass. Minnesota is 22nd against the run, but sixth against the pass.
Both teams are +3 in turnover margin.
Neither team has any players who once played for the other. The Vikings' RB coach, Kirby Wilson, was once the RBs coach from the Cardinals from 2004-2006 and also was on the offensive coaching staff for the Steelers when Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator there.
Larry Fitzgerald needs nine receptions to reach 100 for the season. He would be only the seventh player in NFL history to have 100+ catches in a season three times. He also reached that mark in 2005 and 2007. With 13 catches, he would tie his career high for catches in a season with 103, which he achieved in 2007.
Carson Palmer needs two touchdown passes to set a franchise record for touchdown passes in a season. Kurt Warner holds the record with 30 TD passes in 2008.
Palmer also could reach 4000 yards passing for the season if he throws for 307 yards. He would be the first player in team history to throw for at least 4000 yards twice. He also did it in 2013.
If David Johnson scores a touchdown, he will tie the franchise record for touchdowns by a rookie with 10. Ottis Anderson did it in 1979 and Tim Hightower did it in 2008. If he has a receiving touchdown, he would be the third running back in team history to have at least five TD receptions in a season. Larry Centers had seven in 1996 and Charley Trippi had five in 1949.