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5 Vikings-Cardinals Storylines: Self-Scout Complete, More Passing Milestones Possible


EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings (5-1) are back from their Week 7 bye and prepping to host the Arizona Cardinals (3-4) at noon (CT) Sunday in the 30th overall meeting between the franchises.

Minnesota will try to start a season 6-1 or better for the first time since 2009 and 11th time overall in franchise history.

Arizona will try to snap a 10-game losing streak when visiting Minnesota, a run by the Vikings that began in 1991.

Halftime will feature the Vikings Ring of Honor induction ceremony of Jared Allen, the 27th member to join the group. It's fitting, given that Allen totaled 8.5 of his 85.5 sacks with Minnesota in games against Arizona. He recorded 2.0 or more in four of those five games.

Here is a predicted key matchup, along with five storylines for this week.

Matchup to watch: Vikings pass defense vs. DeAndre Hopkins

The Vikings were able to see just how much the Cardinals had been missing Hopkins, who returned to the lineup from a six-game suspension for Arizona's Week 7 game against New Orleans on Thursday Night Football.

Hopkins was targeted a whopping 14 times and recorded 10 catches for 103 yards in his 2022 debut. His return, along with two interceptions returned for touchdowns, helped Arizona score 42 of its 156 points on the season against the Saints.

The Vikings pass defense enters Week 8 allowing 272.0 passing yards per game (28th in NFL) and 7.88 passing yards per play (32nd).

Hopkins has been quite the difference maker for quarterback Kyler Murray, according to stats compiled by NFL Media Research:

Murray with Hopkins since 2021: 9-2; 71.3 completion percentage, 271.5 passing yards per game, 20-9 TD-INT, 105.6 passer rating

Murray without Hopkins since 2021: 3-7; 64.9 completion percentage, 246.8 passing yards per game, 11-5 TD-INT, 84.9 passer rating

Limiting the damage by Hopkins, a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro, could prove pivotal.

View the best of behind-the-scene photos captured by Vikings team photographers during Weeks 1-6 of the 2022 season.

1. Rest vs. Rust?

Head Coach Kevin O'Connell opted to request a different bye than the week immediately after Minnesota's Week 4 game in London.

The move worked splendidly with the Vikings defeating the Saints and following with a win against the Bears.

Minnesota then crossed off its second-longest road trip of the season in Week 6 and brought another victory back from Miami on the way to its bye.

After a long training camp and the two long trips, one could say the placement of the Week 7 bye was about right, but the Vikings were on a four-game winning streak.

Will the Vikings be able to keep that going and benefit from the breather, or will they encounter some rustiness.

Adding to the dynamic is the fact that Arizona is coming off its mini bye from having played New Orleans to open Week 7 on Thursday Night Football.

2. Self-scout said what?

The Vikings entered their bye with a 5-1 record they appreciated but didn't gloat about.

Instead, coaches and players repeatedly mentioned how they believe there are multiple aspects where the team hasn't yet played at its best.

Coaches underwent the customary bye week self-scout to identify reasons why things have or have not worked as well as intended.

The goal will likely be to address some problems that have not yet cost the team in the wins column, but also identifying factors that have led to success.

The Vikings have had the benefit of seeing multiple types of defensive approaches, as well as varying approaches at the quarterback position.

3. Passing some major milestones?

Members of the Vikings passing game have some milestones within reach heading into Sunday against a Cardinals defense that is allowing 258.6 passing yards per game (25th).

Kirk Cousins needs 24 completions to become the 31st NFL QB with 3,000 in his career.

Adam Thielen needs six receptions to pass Vikings Ring of Honor tight end Steve Jordan (498) for third in franchise history. A seventh will make the hometown hero the third Minnesota player to ever record 500 career receptions behind Pro Football Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Randy Moss.

View photos from the summer of Vikings Legend Jared Allen reacting as the 2022 Ring of Honor inductee. He will be honored during halftime of the Vikings-Cardinals Week 8 game.

Thielen's next touchdown catch will tie him with Anthony Carter (52) for the third-most touchdown receptions in team history.

Justin Jefferson needs one more game with 100 or more receiving yards to tie Moss and Odell Beckham, Jr., for the most such performances (19) in a player's first three NFL seasons.

Jefferson already has two games this season with more than 150 receiving yards, including his personal-best 184 in Week 1, to boost his career total to six contests, which is tied with Moss and fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for the most in a player's first three seasons.

4. Make them play catch-up again

The Cardinals have scored six total points in seven first quarters this season, which is 42 fewer than its opponents.

Arizona has trailed after the first quarter in five of seven games and been tied at 0-0 in an eventual win against Carolina and at 3-3 in a loss to Seattle.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Cardinals.

Last week's 28-14 halftime lead was Arizona's first time to go into intermission ahead of an opponent this season.

Minnesota has been able to manage a lead of at least six points heading into halftime in four of five wins, including its past three games, and was tied at 14 against Detroit.

Those advantages have helped the Vikings, who have struggled in third quarters so far this season, getting outscored 33-6.

5. Protect the football

The Vikings are plus-four in takeaways/giveaways, which ranks fifth in the NFL.

Minnesota has forced 10 turnovers and committed six.

The Cardinals have been a scooch better, with a plus-5 through seven games that is tied for third.

Arizona also has forced 10 turnovers while committing just five.

The bigger component is that the Cardinals have four return touchdowns directly from takeaways this season.

Isaiah Simmons (56) and Marco Wilson (38) recorded pick-sixes in the second quarter last week against New Orleans. Byron Murphy returned a fumble 59 yards for the walk-off winner in overtime at Las Vegas, and Chris Banjo recovered a fumble in the end zone at Seattle.