The Arizona Cardinals (10-2) put their six-game win streak up against the Minnesota Vikings (8-4) as the two squads jockey for position in the increasingly difficult NFC playoff picture on “Thursday Night Football” at U of Phoenix Stadium.
Arizona, whose streak is only bettered in the conference by undefeated Carolina, improved its chances of securing the No. 2 spot and bye in the NFC playoffs by handily defeating the NFC West rival St. Louis Rams 27-3 behind quarterback Carson Palmer’s two touchdown passes
The Cardinals defense, ranked fourth overall with 316.8 yards allowed per game, kept the one-dimensional Rams’ offense to only 212 yards and silenced their quieted their rushing attack to just 66 yards.
The victory marked Arizona’s third straight season of at least 10 wins, strengthened Palmer’s MVP candidacy, and showed the Cardinals are capable of filling up holes on the fly. Arizona lost leading running back Chris Johnson to a fractured leg in Week 12, but plugged in rookie David Johnson for 99 of their 175 total rushing yards on the day.
Arizona’s now favored to beat the Vikings by more than a touchdown (7.5 points), but Minnesota’s coming off a difficult lost and is looking to regain control of the NFC North and climb out of the wild card race.
The Vikings ran into Seattle’s bulwark defense and could only muster 125 total offensive yards and a 2-for-10 conversion rate on third down in a 28-7 letdown on Sunday. A win would have kept the Vikings in the division driver seat but they’ve slipped to second behind Green Bay, and now have a slim one-game lead over Seattle for the NFC’s top wild card slot and only two games over 6-6 Tampa Bay.
Part of the loss, according to the NFL’s leading rusher and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, had to do with Minnesota feeding the former All-Pro only eight times against Seattle. Peterson went so far as to say Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer was “outcoached,” according to ESPN.
"As one of the leaders on the team, seeing how the running game has been all season, you definitely want to be able to go out and establish the run and let things feed off of that," Peterson said. "To finish with eight carries, it's tough. I feel like we're able to sit back, evaluate some things again and get back to what we do."
Of course, Minnesota’s defense and the play of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater also share some blame. The Vikings gave up 433 total offensive yards to Seattle, nearly 100 more yards per game than their previous 11 opponents, and they continue to rank near the bottom of the league against the run. The Seahawks ran through Minnesota’s frontline for 173 yards and two scores.
Bridgewater also struggled. He completed just 60.7 percent of his passes, his lowest accuracy mark in the last five games and he’s failed to throw a touchdown pass in the last two contests.
Betting Odds: Arizona -7.5
Over/under: 45.5 points
Prediction: Arizona over Minnesota, 24-13