The short week of preparation is over and the Vikings are nearly set for their contest against the Arizona Cardinals tonight. Here's what we learned this week about the Vikings-Cardinals matchup in Week 14.
Vikings will be short-handed on defense
As if playing on the road on a short work didn't have its own challenges, the Vikings will conquer the challenge this week by battling the NFL's top-rated offense without four starters on defense. LB Anthony Barr, DT Linval Joseph, S Andrew Sendejo and S Harrison Smith are all ruled out for the game. To help at safety, the Vikings signed veteran Shaun Prater and promoted Anthony Harris from the practice squad. With LB Brandon Watts also ruled out, don't be surprised to see rookie Edmond Robinson play in the game, as well.
Cardinals defense expecting "curveballs"
Arizona's defense is nothing to sneeze at, either. They rank No. 4 in yards allowed and points allowed per game. The Vikings offense enters the game coming off a performance against Seattle in which they didn't put any points on the board. With that as the backdrop, the Cardinals are anticipating significant changes from the Vikings – not just in performance but also in approach.
"With those guys coming off that 'embarrassing' loss as some of the players call it against Seattle, they are probably going to have a couple of curveballs," Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson said. "You're right they haven't been taking many shots downfield but we do expect something different. We don't know if it's going to be shots. We don't know if it's going to be gimmicks. We don't know if it's going to be feed Adrian Peterson the ball more or what it may be. But we do know that we are going to get something different."
Head coaches with mutual respect
As detailed by Craig Peters earlier this week, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians are cut from the same cloth and have respect for one another.
"I always like going against Bruce. He does a great job," Zimmer said. "They want to run the football and they want to throw touchdowns. They're trying to throw the ball deep and they've got a lot of great weapons."
Said Arians of Zimmer: "Oh man, I don't respect anybody in this business any more than I respect Zim."
Zimmer and Arians will meet for the first time as head coaches tonight but they've crossed paths often throughout their careers. Arians has been coaching in the NFL for 23 seasons and Zimmer for 22. Both have spent the majority of their NFL careers as assistants and/or coordinators, but they specialize on opposite sides of the ball so they've played the proverbial chess match often over the years, including twice a season from 2008-11 when Zimmer was defensive coordinator in Cincinnati and Arians was offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh.
Respect for Larry Fitzgerald
**Speaking of respect, Zimmer also paid a boat load of it to one of Arizona's most veteran and most productive players – WR Larry Fitzgerald. The Minnesota native has spent his entire career with the Cardinals and has seen ups and downs with the franchise. He's even playing more in the slot this season than he has in the past. Through it all, Fitzgerald continues to impress both with his ability and the manner in which he conducts himself.
"He's got 90 catches, he's outstanding, he really is," Zimmer said. "And for a guy, the class of person that he is, he does a lot of dirty work, he blocks an awful lot, he blocks big guys, safeties, whoever, he'll block them. He doesn't complain when he gets a pass interference or somebody holds him or something like that, he doesn't complain. Obviously he's got great hands, runs great routes and he doesn't try to be the center of the game. He tries to be a professional receiver and I have a lot of respect for him. He was raised right, he's phenomenal."