The Vikings get three cracks the rest of this season at exorcising the ghosts of failures past. First up is the Cardinals, who broke our hearts in late 2003 on a Josh McCown-to-Nathan Poole TD that not only beat us but knocked us out of the playoffs. Arizona can’t knock us out this time but they can hurt our chances. If the Vikings lose today they fall back into a tie with Chicago, though they would still hold the tiebreaker edge, pending next week’s Bears–Packers game. A win over Arizona would not clinch it for us – the Bears made sure of that by beating the Saints – but it would make the situation much more comfortable.
The quarterback match-up would seem the most intriguing. On one side you have former MVP and Super Bowl champ Kurt Warner, who is having another MVP-type season despite his advanced age. And on the Vikings side you have Tarvaris Jackson making his first start since being benched after Week 2. Jackson impressed some people by playing well in relief of Gus Frerotte last week against Detroit, but overall, he has been a disappointment. His shot at redemption comes against a Cardinals defense that ranks just 19th against the pass. The Vikings, meanwhile, will pit their 20th-ranked pass defense against the #2-rated aerial attack in the league. It may mean nothing, but the Vikings won their games against the #1 pass offense, the Saints, and the #4 pass offense, the Texans. Those teams were able to put up big yards against the Vikes but turnovers made the difference – the Vikes picked off Drew Brees twice and the Sage Rosenfels/Matt Schaub combo twice. The Vikes also faced the #6 passing team, the Colts, and lost – but intercepted Peyton Manning twice, and had a chance to win.
The formula for beating Kurt Warner is pretty obvious – pressure him. Warner has a 99.1 QB rating overall, but he’s had two games where he was under 80: against the Eagles and Giants, two teams noted for getting pressure on the QB (one by blitz, one by dominant front-four play). The Vikings have a front four that is capable of being dominating for stretches, and if they have one of their stand-out games today, then the team will have a better-than-even shot at winning. Unfortunately, our pass-rush has been notably less-fearsome on the road than at home. It helps that they’ll be chasing a stationary target and not Jeff Garcia.
Adrian Peterson has a chance to surpass Robert Smith‘s team record for most rushing yards today. AD has 1413 yards on the season so far, 108 shy of Smith’s mark. Of course, Peterson has no chance at breaking Smith’s long-standing record as the most pompous ass ever to wear a Vikings uniform.