Cardinals at Vikings -- Week 7
Where: Mall of America Field, Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn. (turf, indoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Spread: Vikings by 6
Records: Vikings (Overall: 4-2, NFC North: 1-0); Cardinals (Overall: 4-2, NFC East: 1-1)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Oct. 9, 2011: Vikings 34, Cardinals 10; Nov. 7, 2010: Vikings 27, Cardinals 24. Series record: Vikings lead 14-10.
What matters: The Cardinals are down but most certainly not out. Not with a defense that remains one of the league's best. Despite two straight losses, Arizona ranks fourth in the NFL in points allowed, tied for third in sacks and tied for second in fumble recoveries. With the offense reeling, even more pressure will be put on the defense, with Adrian Peterson laying in wait.
Who matters: QB John Skelton, it's back on you. Skelton's brief return Sunday against Buffalo was not promising -- he was just 2 of 10 and threw a critical, game-deciding interception in overtime -- but he has sounded relaxed and confident about returning to the starting position. Kevin Kolb will be sidelined for the foreseeable future, and with just rookie Ryan Lindley available, Skelton will have to stay upright. That's no small task behind an offensive line that has surredered 23 sacks in three games.
Key matchups: Arizona linebackers vs. Minnesota RB Peterson. Peterson is an absolute freak of nature who has bounced back from a torn ACL incredibly fast. Peterson ranks seventh in the NFL with 499 rushing yards and also has 129 receiving yards as the Vikings are starting to trust him more. The Cardinals' linebackers are playing as well as any in the league, so Daryl Washington and Co. will need to keep it up against one of the game's best backs.
Injuries of note: Kolb is certainly the most notable injury du jour, but the Cardinals are aching almost everywhere. S Kerry Rhodes (back) is out and CB Greg Toler (hamstring) is listed as doubtful, but DT Darnell Dockett (hamstring) is nearing full speed and that could be a boon for the defense up the middle.
Inside stuff: LB Paris Lenon got off to a scorching start with two Week-1 sacks. He has none since. Lenon has made his presence known in other ways, but he'll need to provide more pressure against young Minnesota QB Christian Ponder.
Connections: The Vikings traded for Arizona DB A.J. Jefferson in the preseason. ... Arizona WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are from the Twin Cities area.
Stat you should know: Arizona RB William Powell had 70 yards on 13 carries in a loss to the Bills, and his quick maturation would be huge for the Cardinals. The loss of Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells set Arizona back, but even they weren't producing much in the offense. A big game by Powell, who led the NFL in preseason rushing yards, would help relieve much of the pressure from Skelton.
Looking ahead: The season doesn't get any easier for the Cardinals from here, with dates with San Francisco, Green Bay and Atlanta ahead.
Prediction: Vikings 31, Cardinals 17
For more news and analysis from Cardinals blogger Jon Gold, follow @CBSSportsNFLARI on Twitter.