Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 10/21/12
This is a big game for the Arizona Cardinals.

They've lost two in a row after a stellar 4-0 start. Their offensive line is a mess. Their starting quarterback, Kevin Kolb, will miss several weeks with a chest/rib injury. The Red Birds need a win to keep pace with the 49ers in the NFC West. It won't be easy. The Vikings have a very balanced squad and the Metrodome is always a tough place to play. Let's look at Sunday's matchup:

Minnesota (4-2)

The Vikings enter Sunday's contest one-half game behind the division-leading Chicago Bears. They're also 3-0 at home this season and that is no surprise considering how loud the Metrodome can get. Minnesota sports two of the best offensive players in the NFL in running back Adrian Peterson and wide receiver Percy Harvin.

Now in his sixth season, Peterson has made a remarkable recovery from the torn ACL and MCL he suffered against Washington last Christmas Eve. He is a powerful, speedy tailback who currently ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing (499 yards). He has been dealing with a left ankle injury recently but should be ready to go on Sunday. Peterson ran roughshod over the Cardinals last season with 122 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.

Harvin is not only a dangerous kick returner (he has a 105-yard return for a TD already this year) but he is one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the league. The University of Florida product leads the league in receptions (49) and is seventh in receiving yards (540). Expect the Red Birds to put talented cornerback Patrick Peterson on Harvin. That is a fascinating matchup to watch.

The Vikings are led by second-year quarterback Christian Ponder, who currently ranks second in the league in completion percentage (68.6) and has tossed eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He is averaging 239 yards through the air per game. Ponder is not an elite signal-caller yet but is improving and the Cardinals will try and get as much sustained pressure on him as they can. Minnesota's offensive line has done a pretty good job of protecting him – he's been sacked just 13 times this season.

Defensively the Vikings are allowing 19.5 PPG while the Cardinals are averaging 18.3 PPG. Pretty close. Minnesota also ranks 10th in the league against the run (96 YPG), 11th in sacks (15) and 11th vs. the pass (218 YPG). The Cardinals have had trouble all year establishing the run and you know All-Pro Jared Allen and company can't wait to penetrate Arizona's porous offensive line and get to the quarterback. This could get ugly.

Arizona (4-2)

That quarterback is now John Skelton (pictured above), who gets his starting gig back due to Kevin Kolb's chest and rib injuries. Kolb could be out another six weeks. Skelton looked very rusty in relief of Kolb last week, completing just 2 of 10 passes for 45 yards and the interception that set up Buffalo's game-winning field goal in overtime. He'll be facing a strong Viking defensive line led by Allen and we all know how awful Arizona's offensive line has been this season. They've allowed 28 sacks, tops in the league. Ouch.

Skelton will look early and often for Minneapolis native Larry Fitzgerald, who continues to shine despite poor QB play. The All-Pro wide out has 430 yards receiving and three touchdowns this season. He'll need some help from Andre Roberts (four TD catches) and rookie Michael Floyd. Floyd has not made an impact yet in his rookie season.

William Powelll will try and establish a running game for the Cardinals, with some help from LaRod Stephens-Howling but it won't be easy. Arizona ranks in the bottom five in rushing yards per game and are second worst in rush yards per attempt with a paltry 3.4 average. Powell had a fine start last week against the Bills, rushing for 70 yards on 13 carries. However, the Vikings run defense is much better than Buffalo's and until the offensive line improves drastically, there is not much optimism for the Red Birds to have a prolific afternoon running the ball on Sunday.

Prediction: Skelton and the Cardinals are in for a long afternoon. The offensive line is still their main concern and rightly so. Allen and company could have a big day rushing the quarterback. Arizona's defense and special teams have kept them in games so far but it looks like it will be too much Peterson, Harvin, Ponder and Allen to contend with. The Cards drop their third straight. Vikings 27, Cardinals 17.



Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.
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