Phoenix descending: Vikings vs. Cardinals
For the first time since Brett Favre's roaring return to Lambeau Field on the 1st of November, he and the 10-1 Vikings are opposing a winning club this weekend, and playing a game on the road. With four wins in five career games against the Cardinals, Brett may not need seek any direction for finding success against NFC West-leading Arizona (7-4), but if by chance he is searching for advise, wisdom may stem from an unlikely source:
For the second-consecutive season, the Purple are playing a
December contest at University of Phoenix Stadium. Lest we forget last year's Week 14 stomping of the eventual NFC champs, the Vikings' 35-14 victory marked a career-day for now-backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. T-Jack attempted just 17 passes in the win, completing 11 of them -- the rub? Four of them were for touchdowns. Kinda forget that one myself.
Of more lasting memory from that contest may be Adrian Peterson's stellar 165 yard rushing performance, which marked the second-highest total in his '08 season and stands as the fifth-best single-game total of his career.
Jackson's performance aside, don't look for Sunday eve's nationally televised throwdown to bring altered fates for the Cardinals.
Arizona may indeed be a division leader with a respectable record, however it's well-worthy of note that they're a mere 2-3 at home, while just two of their seven victories have come against teams with winning records; three of their wins have come via conquests over their woeful NFC West opponents -- all of whom are below .500 on the year. In addition, of the two winners felled by 'Zona, both of those teams (NY Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars) enter Week 13 at just 6-5. Arizona will likely make the second season in '09, but they'll do so as beneficiaries of playing in the league's weakest division.
On the offensive side of the ball, Arizona can no doubt roll up some points, as evidenced by their 24.3 per, good for 10th in the NFL. Minneapolis-native Larry Fitzgerald leads conference wideouts with 75 catches and nine TD's on the year, and has sound numbers in two previous games versus the hometown team for which he once served as ball boy, having gathered 16 grabs for 224 yards. The 'Zona backfield presents a two-headed monster in second-year back Tim Hightower and rookie runner Chris "Beanie" Wells. The pair has combined for nearly 1,000 rush yards on the campaign, while Hightower claims 16 rush scores in 27 lifetime games and currently ranks second among all NFL running backs with 50 receptions. Both face a lofty task in finding ground room against a Vikings defense that has allowed just three rushing scores on the season and limits opponents to a mere 81.6 rush yards a game. Look for linebacker Chad Greenway to eyeball Hightower throughout
But while the Cardinals' offensive acumen requires little debate -- Arizona enters Sunday night with the leviathan question of exactly who will be distributing the rock. Kurt Warner missed the Cardinals' depressing Week 12 loss against Tennessee with symptoms stemming from a knock to the head suffered the game previous. Pretty boy backup Matt Leinart was actually respectable versus the Titans, tossing for 230 yards in a 21-for-31 passing line. The two have split practice reps since Wednesday, but whichever one starts suggests an ample Prey opportunity for a Predatorial Purple D that leads the NFL with 40 sacks. It's either a 38-year-old, immobile, potentially blurry-eyed Warner that may seeing two "69"'s howling his way all night, or a 2004 Heisman-winning washout that hasn't tossed for two touchdowns in a game in nearly three years.
And while the Vikings' own slew of seasonal opponents to date continues to beg some question as to their true merit, the fact that Arizona has allowed 300-yard passing efforts in three of their last four to the likes of Jay Cutler, Matt Hasselbeck and Vince Young (none of whom rank in the league's top-dozen in aerial yardage) portends a fine night for Favre on a stage befitting his love of attention. After New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees overtook the MVP race with his exceptional, five TD performance against New England on Monday night -- look for Favre to keep pace with the nation watching the Sunday eve broadcast on NBC.
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