It's a short week for the Vikings and Cardinals. They will battle on Thursday night in Arizona, just four days removed from their games on Sunday. The Vikings enter off a loss to the Seattle Seahawks while the Cardinals come in flying high after their sixth consecutive win.
Here are five Vikings-Cardinals storylines to watch in this week's Vikings-Cardinals matchup...
1. Final quarter of regular season begins
Don't look now, but the NFL's regular season has reached the 75% mark. The Vikings went 2-2 in the first quarter of the season, 4-0 in the second quarter and 2-2 in the third quarter. The final quarter of the season begins this week. The Vikings bring a respectable 8-4 record into the final stretch of the season and will follow up Thursday's clash with the Cardinals with games at home against Chicago and the NY Giants before traveling to Green Bay for the season finale.
2. Who's in, who's out?
Injuries are a significant factor in any game at this stage of the season. Throw in a short week, and they are an even larger factor. The Vikings listed four defensive starters and four reserve defenders on the week's first injury report, with all four starters sitting out practice entirely. The starters who didn't practice on Monday were LB Anthony Barr, DT Linval Joseph, S Andrew Sendejo and S Harrison Smith. Arizona listed 12 players on their initial injury report, with five of them missing all of practice and seven listed as limited participants.
3. Zimmer vs. Arians
Two of the most well-respected coaches in the League on their respective sides of the ball will square off on Thursday night. Mike Zimmer will bring a banged up version of his group to Arizona to square off against Bruce Arians' high-flying offense. Vikings fans are quite familiar with the strength of their team's defense, but this week will provide a first-hand glimpse at a Cardinals offense that ranks 1st in yards, 1st in scoring and 3rd in passing yards.
4. Cardinal WRs with Minnesota ties
Two big components of the Cardinals prolific offense are a pair of WRs who each have ties to Minnesota. Leading the way is Larry Fitzgerald, a native of Minneapolis who attended Holy Angels Academy and was a two-time All-State performer. Fitzgerald leads Arizona in receptions (91), receiving yards (1,047), receiving TDs (7) and receptions of 20+ yards (16). Lining up with Fitzgerald often times is Michael Floyd, a product of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul. Floyd averages 15.7 yards per catch and has 5 TDs on the season.
5. Vikings look to get passing game back in the air
Arizona has had no trouble producing through the air. The same cannot be said for the Vikings. Pass protection, receivers getting open and Teddy Bridgewater delivering the ball on time and on target are all facets of the passing game that have worked at various times this season, but they haven't worked simultaneously often enough this season. With the passing game not showing much in recent games, the Cardinals will likely do what every defense has done to the Vikings this season – crowd the box to try and contain Adrian Peterson. That will give Bridgewater and Co. yet another chance to find a rhythm and make teams pay for overplaying the run.