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Lunchbreak: Previewing Vikings-Cardinals Week 8 Matchup

The Minnesota Vikings have created solid early-season momentum by winning five of their first six games.

Minnesota then took last week's bye as a chance to rest, recover and refocus in preparation for the second half of its schedule.

Meanwhile the Arizona Cardinals, who will visit Minnesota at noon (CT) Sunday, are fresh off a shootout victory against the New Orleans Saints and are trying to establish some momentum and get back to .500.

Alec Lewis and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic recently broke down what they will be watching during Sunday's game and what the Vikings biggest concerns and opportunities are heading into Week 8.

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

Lewis said he will be focused on Minnesota's offense and if anything changes for Head Coach Kevin O'Connell coming out of his inaugural bye week at the helm. He wrote:

O'Connell said he scanned the team's tendencies from the first six games. He highlighted early-down success as essential. He is also six weeks into experiencing how teams will attempt to take away Justin Jefferson. Because no two defenses are the same, it'll be difficult to assess each granular detail of whatever changes the Vikings make.

Still, the Cardinals play a lot of zone defense, and the Vikings have faced a lot of zone defense. How the Vikings counteract what they see will be telling.

Krawczynski will be turning his attention to the defensive side of the ball, specifically outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith. Smith recorded three total tackles and two sacks against the Miami Dolphins in Week 6.

[Smith] was disruptive in Miami, helping the Vikings defense attack a short-handed Dolphins offense. Now he has had a week off, so he should be fresh-legged for this weekend, and the Vikings are going to need it.

Kyler Murray's ability to extend plays makes him as dynamic as any quarterback in the league. With DeAndre Hopkins back in the mix, the Vikings are going to need to get heat on Murray and get him on the ground. Danielle Hunter has yet to assert himself in that area. Smith has, and it's go time for him.

Lewis noted a key concern will be Hopkins, particularly his ability to line up in the slot. He said the Cardinals wide receiver was featured in the slot 27 times in his first game of the season last Thursday against the Saints, which is the most he's had since the 2019 season.

Krawczynski said similar to Hopkins, another concern for the Vikings will be trying to slow down Murray. He wrote:

[Murray] has a big arm, but he really puts pressure on a game by moving around in the pocket and taking off for yards on the ground. The Vikings have looked shaky against those kinds of quarterbacks this year… Murray at his best, and with Hopkins getting open downfield, is even more dangerous.

As for key opportunities, Lewis said rookie linebacker Brian Asamoah II could have a chance to expand on his role defensively.

CBS Sports releases QB power rankings for Week 8

Sunday's game between the Vikings and the Cardinals could result in a battle of the quarterbacks, led by Minnesota's Kirk Cousins and Murray.

Through six games, Cousins has completed 151 of his 228 pass attempts for 1,502 yards and nine touchdowns. Murray has gone 184-for-281 with 1,667 yards and seven scores in seven games.

Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports recently looked at all 32 teams' quarterbacks. Going into Week 8, Benjamin ranked Cousins 11th on the list. He wrote:

You can see a common thread with most of these guys after, oh, the top eight or so QBs on this list: an increasing dependence on surroundings. Cousins is the prototype — perfectly efficient enough to win games, but not necessarily on his own.

Benjamin listed Murray two spots lower at No. 13.