The Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals faced off in Week 2 of last season. Greg Joseph missed a game-winning field goal, and Arizona snuck out a victory. The Cardinals haven’t won a game in Minneapolis since 1977, and the Vikings are looking to continue that streak on Sunday.
However, the Cardinals are coming off a win against the New Orleans Saints. They have DeAndre Hopkins back from a suspension, making them a more dangerous team than their 3-4 record suggests. In this matchup, the Vikings will have a few key factors to gameplan around.
Kyler Murray’s Speed
The Vikings have struggled against running quarterbacks this year. So far this season, Jalen Hurts has run for 57 yards and two touchdowns, and Justin Fields ran for another 47 yards on eight carries. These numbers were complemented by good passing days for both QBs, revealing the Vikings’ struggles to contain mobile passers looking downfield.
Murray is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, and last year he gained 431 total yards on the Vikings and scored four times. Murray is having a bit of a slow start to the season, posting an 83.7 passer rating so far. But by adding Hopkins, the offense should meaningfully improve.
The Vikings may use pressure to counter Murray. When he has a clean pocket, Murray has a PFF grade of 82.7, 12th best this season for QBs who have significant playing time. However, when there is pressure, that grade drops down to 30.9, 34th out of 38 qualified passers.
Minnesota will have to prevent Murray from sitting back in the pocket while containing him when he decides to run.
The Vikings have done a pretty good job at both preventing and generating turnovers, giving the ball away only six times while forcing a fumble or interception ten times for a plus-four differential. This is barely beaten out by Arizona’s plus-five – they have thrown one fewer interception.
The Cardinals have also managed to score on three of those plays, returning two interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns. Conversely, the Vikings have yet to score a defensive touchdown. Murray is responsible for all five of Arizona’s turnovers, with four interceptions and one fumble lost. He’s also had three fumbles that the Cardinals recovered.
Arizona has recovered six of their seven total fumbles, meaning it’s possible that their turnover differential is a bit deceiving. As it stands, though, both teams have been good at winning the turnover battle. The only game where the Vikings lost the turnover battle has also been their lone defeat of the season.
Weak Pass Rush
The Cardinals lost star edge rusher Chandler Jones in the offseason, and it’s showing in their pass rush. Arizona is tied for the fifth-fewest sacks in the NFL with 11 while having the ninth-worst pressure rate at 20.9%. Their lack of a pass rush has led to an overall struggling pass defense that is giving up the eighth-most passing yards per game at 272.
Kirk Cousins thrives when he can sit back without worrying about pressure, and the Vikings should take full advantage of this. Play-action has been important to the Minnesota offense, and it should continue to work against a team that has struggled to generate pressure consistently. Giving Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen more time to get downfield should result in a lot of big plays for the Vikings.