Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings: Scouting report and prediction

The Cardinals meet the Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

The game kicks off at 10 a.m. and is televised on Channel 10.

Bob McManaman offers his scouting report and prediction.

Cardinals on offense

Each week the Cardinals talk about correcting mistakes and eliminating the problems that keep plaguing them and slowing them down, but nothing has really changed and for that to happen, they’re going to have to finally show it. There are some weaknesses that can be exploited in Minnesota’s defense. The Bills proved that a few weeks ago. But Arizona is going to have to establish a running game behind David Johnson and a beat-up offensive line and Josh Rosen will need his receivers to quit dropping balls and start making plays, especially on third down. It would help if the play calling were a little more imaginative and if it started utilizing veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who can’t help if he’s only getting thrown at two or three times a game. The Cardinals also would be wise to try more deep balls to their speed receiver, J.J. Nelson, and get a little more pass-play action with veteran tight end Jermaine Gresham. The linemen up front, meanwhile, need to do more than just starting to create holes for Johnson.  They have to fend off a blitzing defense that will attack from everywhere and not just from the Vikings’ front seven, which is tough enough to neutralize. So far, the pass protection has been good. Nothing else has been, however.

Edge: Vikings

Cardinals on defense

For the Cardinals to have any chance at all in this game, the defense will likely have to step up and save the day and that’s probably asking for too much. Perhaps if they can register as many takeaways as they did last week on the road against the 49ers, they can pull off an upset here. But is it realistic to think the defense can regularly produce five turnovers? That’s not going to happen every week. Defensive end Chandler Jones can help if he keeps performing at the level he showed against San Francisco. He was a complete disruptor in that game, but he’s going to need a lot of help in this one. That means getting something up the middle from tackles Corey Peters, Robert Nkemdiche, Olsen Pierre and Rodney Gunter. It also means the other defensive end, whether it’s Markus Golden or Benson Mayowa, has to also bring chaos and help seal the edge. That’s been an epic failure for this unit since the season opener. Opposing teams keep gashing the Cardinals with perimeter runs and screen passes, so if the ends aren’t mindful about forcing things inside, this game could get away from the Cardinals in a hurry. If it starts heading that way, it might be time to abandon the zone defense and stick with the 4-3 base defense a lot more. But the Cardinals don’t seem to trust their linebackers, so that’s probably not going to happen.

Edge: Vikings

Special teams

If the Cardinals felt that good about 43-year-old kicker Phil Dawson, they probably wouldn’t have brought in two free-agent kickers for tryouts earlier this week. They can’t be discouraged whatsoever with what they’re getting out of fellow veteran Andy Lee, their extraordinarily reliable punter. He dropped five punts inside the 49ers’ 20-yard line last week and probably will have to do the same in this game if the Cardinals wish to stay close. Vikings kicker Dan Bailey is 6 of 8 on field-goal attempts since joining the club a few weeks ago. He’s the league’s second-most accurate kicker in history. The Cardinals can get some return yards on Minnesota punter Matt Wile, but primary return man Christian Kirk has yet to make a dent. That has to change at some point. The Cardinals also can’t afford any costly special-teams penalties, which they seem to continually get.

Edge: Vikings

Bottom line

Although the Vikings don’t look like the playoff team many insiders predicted, they certainly look like the better team in this matchup and if the Cardinals are to have any hope at all, they’re going to need three to four players step up and making some game-changing plays that can’t be countered. That’s a tall order, to be sure, but there probably will be a game or two that the Cardinals surprise and find a way to win. I just don’t see it happening this week.

Prediction: Vikings 30, Cardinals 16

Reach McManaman at bob.mcmanaman@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac and listen to him live every Tuesday afternoon between 3-6 on 1580-AM The Fanatic with Roc and Manuch and every Wednesday afternoon between 1-3 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.

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