The Vikings (8-4) are making their first trip to Arizona since 2009 to face the Cardinals (10-2) on Thursday Night Football.
There's plenty of pre-game takes around the web. Here are excerpts from five outlets as today's Lunch Break takes on a pre-game meal feel:
Marc Sessler of NFL.com noted the versatility of a pair of defensive backs in part of his preview. Sessler wrote:
We've been saying this for months, but [Tyrann] Mathieu is playing as well as any defensive back in the NFL. He's insanely versatile and helps Arizona in ways that don't show up in the box score. Ranking as the league's top cover man, per Pro Football Focus, Honey Badger might be the best run-stuffing defensive back in the NFL. He also leads all cornerbacks with a combined eight quarterback sacks, hits and hurries, while Minnesota's Captain Munnerlyn ranks second with seven. Some of Mathieu's finest moments have come in prime time, so get ready for a fun showdown on NFL Network.
Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune* *thinks Cardinals QB Carson Palmer's resurgence should position him for Comeback Player of the Year, as well as a contender for NFL MVP:
Speaking of the Cardinals offense, quarterback Carson Palmer is the front-runner for the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award for his play after suffering an ACL tear last year. He should be considered one of the front-runners for the MVP award, too. Targeting a deep and dynamic group of wide receivers, Palmer has passed for 3,693 yards and 29 touchdowns while leading the first-place Cardinals to a 10-2 record.
Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press writes that the Vikings defense must stop the run better today than they did against Seattle.
In the loss to Seattle, the Vikings failed to stop rookie running back Thomas Rawls, who gained 101 yards in relief of injured star Marshawn Lynch. Now, the Vikings will try to slow down another rookie understudy, David Johnson. With Chris Johnson out for the remainder of the regular season because of a broken leg, David Johnson carried 22 times for 99 yards in his first NFL start in last Sunday's 27-3 win at St. Louis.
John Holler of Viking Update, meanwhile, noted the breadth and depth of threats that Arizona has at wide receiver, including Minneapolis native Larry Fitzgerald and St. Paul native Michael Floyd:
Pick Your Poison – Perhaps no team in the league has more depth among dynamic receivers in the league. Larry Fitzgerald is still elite and proves it on a weekly basis. He is on pace to catch 120 passes for 1,400 yards and nine TDs. John Brown is on pace to top 1,000 yards, so he needs to be covered. Michael Floyd is arguably the most talented receiver on the team, but his numbers have been reduced due to injury. Even fourth receiver J.J. Nelson, who has caught just 11 passes, is averaging more than 27 yards per reception. With a secondary running on fumes, the Fab Four could be too much to handle.
Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com writes that injuries may have led to a reduction in usage of the blitz and a decrease in sacks per game:
View travel photos from Wednesday as the Vikings flew from Minneapolis to Phoenix for Thursday's game vs. the Cardinals.
Finding the fluster — Zimmer has backed off the blitz considerably since Anthony Barr broke his left hand in the Nov. 8 win against St. Louis. So it's likely no coincidence their sack-per-game average has dropped from 2.6 over the first seven games, to 1.8 over the last five. They haven't been able to generate as much pressure on the quarterback with a defensive front that has dealt with injuries to Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen. They're facing a Cardinals offense that is vulnerable to pressure. Palmer is feeling heat on 42.3 percent of his dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus, which is the third-highest rate in the league. Though he's been tough to bring down as they've surrendered just 19 sacks and Palmer is delivering the ball with a league-high 13 throws while being hit, per PFF.
"Crazy popular" construction cameras
The livestreaming and archival photos of construction of U.S. Bank Stadium are some of EarthCam's most popular content producers in the world, reports Rochelle Olson of the Star Tribune:
*Pages from the construction cameras have been viewed 10.7 million times since the cameras went up through November, according to EarthCam. *
Lisa Kelly, strategic sales director at EarthCam and a New Brighton native, said the company has thousands of cameras telecasting throughout the world. Among all EarthCam cameras on all sites, the Vikings stadium is consistently in the top 25 viewed. Among the construction cameras, the stadium is in the top five.