EAGAN, Minn. — Through seven weeks of the 2022 NFL season, only three teams are unbeaten at home: the Philadelphia Eagles, the Buffalo Bills, and the Minnesota Vikings.
All three of Minnesota's victories at home this season have come against NFC North opponents, with the Vikings averaging 26.7 points per game at home, which ranks fifth in the NFL.
Minnesota has totaled 1,197 yards offensively at home this year. The Vikings have primarily done it through the air, with quarterback Kirk Cousins passing for 833 of his 1,502 yards at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Cousins has a quarterback rating of 101.2 through three home games this season, compared to a combined 76.2 on the road thanks in large part to Minnesota's Week 2 loss at Philadelphia. He also has six total touchdowns at home and just one interception.
Minnesota Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said the consistent energy of the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium has played a crucial role in the Vikings success at home so far this season.
"The thing that just jumps out at me always is just the energy, and that energy and the feel of the crowd from the time we come out for warmups to the time we get to go in after what has been a really successful start of our home slate, I think our team feeds off it," O'Connell said. "I know the guys that have played here for a long time try to set the tone with our younger players of just embrace it and how special of an opportunity it is to play in front of our great fans and in that type of environment."
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Cardinals.
Defensively, Minnesota has allowed an average of 17.7 points per contest at home, which is tied for ninth in the NFL.
"We know it's hard for the [opposing] offense, obviously, and that's been a real edge for us, but we've got to be great and try to mimic that noise that our fans do provide for our defense and make sure all the checks, all the things as part of our system to make sure we're in a premier look defensively for all the things we're going to see that require some elite communication where you're not always able to hear each other out there," O'Connell added. "We're constantly trying to rep that thing and make sure our guys are ready to go, but I would never, ever want to not have that effort from our fans. It's special, and hopefully we can keep giving them reasons to provide that atmosphere."
The Vikings (5-1) will host the Arizona Cardinals (3-4) at noon (CT) Sunday. Minnesota is 11-4 at home in the series, with wins in 10 consecutive matchups going back to Oct. 13, 1991.
O'Connell faced the Cardinals three times last season as the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. He said he'll take what he can from those previous meetings, but added he knows it'll be a completely different team than a year ago.
"I think what I have is just an inventory of knowing how good they can be when they put it all together like they did against the Saints and turn the ball over, really play complementary with both sides and special teams. I treat each game as its own," O'Connell said. "I try to take whatever we can over the past couple of years, but teams change so much. Schemes change. We're different than ultimately what we were in L.A. in a lot of ways, our personnel, our scheme has kind of evolved as we've moved along here, but I definitely, starting with [Arizona Head Coach] Kliff [Kingsbury] and knowing that great roster they've put together there."
Can the Vikings defense stop D-Hop? | By Sam Thiel
The Vikings have faced three receivers ranked in the top 10 for yards: Philadelphia's A.J. Brown and Miami's Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
On Sunday against the Cardinals, Minnesota will be tasked with trying to stop another primary receiving threat — DeAndre Hopkins.
Hopkins made his season debut last week for Arizona against New Orleans after serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.
The Cardinals wide receiver quickly made his presence felt, hauling in 10 catches for 103 yards in Arizona's 42-34 victory.
Since he was drafted by Houston in 2013, Hopkins has recorded 799 receptions for 10,684 yards. Both marks rank in the top two in the NFL in that span.
Despite Hopkins only playing one game this season, the Vikings know trying to contain him will be a challenge.
"I mean, whenever you have an opportunity to insert an All-Pro receiver like DeAndre back into the offense, [it] makes them that much more dynamic," Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "We understand that. That is one of [Arizona quarterback] Kyler's [Murray] favorite targets, and it shows when he's in the lineup – those guys have a good probability of winning. But we know we have our hands full. They have speed all over the field, a dynamic quarterback that can extend plays and can have those electrifying plays. So we've got a full plate here come Sunday for sure."
O'Connell said Hopkins' skills work well with the dual-threat capabilities of Murray.
Since the 2021 season, Murray is 9-2 with Hopkins in the lineup vs. 3-7 without. He also has a better completion percentage (71.3 vs. 64.9), more passing yards per game (271.5 vs. 246.8), and a higher passer rating (105.6 vs. 84.9).
"[Hopkins has] got a pretty unique skill set to get open and separate, but even when you're able to cover him up either with help over the top or stay connected with him in man-to-man, he's still open because of his catch radius and his ability to make plays on the football," O'Connell said. "I think he complements Kyler really well because he can win in rhythm and then those contested opportunity throws can sometimes come on those downs where Kyler gets out of the pocket and is so hard to deal with, with his athleticism and accuracy, both in the pocket and out of the pocket."
Facing former teammates | By Lindsey Young
Peterson and Jordan Hicks will work to help the Vikings defeat their former team on Sunday.
Peterson, who signed with Minnesota last spring, played at Arizona in Week 2 last season, a narrow loss by the Vikings. Though he spent his first 10 NFL seasons with the Cardinals, picking up tricks of the trade, Peterson said he doesn't put more weight on this game than any other.
"It's just another team on the schedule now," he told media members Thursday. "You know, last year it was a little different, but now kind of being here with this group of guys for my second season, I'm just looking at it as another game right now."
Hicks spent his first four pro seasons with the Eagles before playing in Arizona from 2019-21. Sunday will mark the first time he faces the Cardinals since teaming with them.
Hicks is looking forward to the game but also aligns with Peterson's philosophy.
"It's a matter of trying not to make it too big," he said. "Just treating it like it's any other week. Prepare the same way, watch film the same way and go out there – obviously excited."
Though Hicks has close relationships with some of the Cardinals players, including tight end Zach Ertz, whom he also played with in Philadelphia, the linebacker said there hasn't been a ton of communication with former teammates this week.
"It's competition week," he said. "Everyone understands that."
A different test of speed | By Craig Peters
In Week 6, there was plenty of focus on the speed Miami features at its offensive skill positions.
This week, keep an eye on Cardinals safety Budda Baker and inside linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins and how Vikings players like Dalvin Cook try to offset it.
"You can tell how they drafted that they knew what they were trying to do as a defensive philosophy, defensive scheme. Isaiah, Collins, all those guys," Cook said. "They fit that body type that they were trying to get. They fly around. They're fast.
"Budda makes up for a lot on that defense," Cook added. "He's like a 12th player out there. He's a good player. Isaiah, he's becoming his own. [They have] J.J. [Watt] up front, so we've got a task at hand in front of us, which is every week in this league. They play hard. We're looking for a dog fight. We're just trying to go execute and play to our standard and get a win."
Sacrificing a bit of size in the name of speed and versatility has enabled Arizona to be aggressive and opportunistic — the defense has scored four touchdowns on its 10 takeaways.
"When you turn on the tape, they fly around, and the way they use Isaiah Simmons and Budda, and really the whole internal part of the defense, speed jumps out at you, and then effort," O'Connell said. "I think this team does a great job of attacking the football, as well. We've got to be great when we've got the ball in our hands and try to limit any kind of plays where we could give away a possession to these guys because they're really well coached and I have a lot of respect for this defensive coaching staff — not only the scheme, which is a challenge in itself but how they play, and you can tell it's really emphasized."
Cousins also noted the aggressive nature of the Cardinals defense.
"I think it's a defense where you have to be aware of a lot of parts at all different levels of defense," Cousins said. "I think they're smart players. I think they understand the importance of them trying to take the ball away. They do a good job with the way they execute the defense."