Few people expected the Minnesota Vikings to come out of their Week 7 bye with a 5-1 record and an easy lead in the NFC North. The Vikings host the Cardinals on Sunday in an attempt to increase the gap in the division.
Rusty or Rested?
The games in Week 6 and Week 8 are exactly 14 days apart, and therefore, the bye week can have two possible effects. A result of not playing a game is usually a rested team. The Vikings released their Wednesday injury report with just one name on it. Rookie wide receiver Jalen Nailor had a hamstring injury but still managed to get in a full practice. All other players on the 53-man roster are healthy and should be rested.
However, the bye week can also have a different effect, as the team could be rusty. The players may need a few plays to get back up to speed. In the last 12 seasons, the Vikings only managed to win three games and lost nine. Head coach Kevin O’Connell copied a lot of his approach from his previous team, the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams lost after their bye week in 2021 against the Green Bay Packers. Granted, the Packers were hard to beat and won 13 games in the regular season.
Another factor is that the momentum could be stopped. O’Connell’s Vikings have won four consecutive games, and the momentum doesn’t always continue after the bye week, just like the 2016 Vikings proved. They won their first five games. After the bye week, they only had a 3-8 record. The Vikings must get back into rhythm and up to speed early in the game.
Which Cardinals Team will Show Up?
The Cardinals can show a different face on any given Sunday. They are totally capable of offensive fireworks, but there’s one problem. They can’t do it consistently. Just last week, the Cardinals scored 42 points against the Saints. It was their first and only time scoring more than 30 points in 2022. Arizona also eclipsed 400 yards on offense just once this season, in their Week 2 comeback win against the Raiders.
In 2021, the Cardinals scored more than 30 points in nine games and had at least 400 yards in seven games. They also started 7-0 into the season before they fell off a cliff and pulled off a victory in just four of the last ten games. The 11-6 team lost in the wild-card round in Los Angeles against the Rams.
In the offseason, the franchise didn’t make any big moves but regressed and started the season 3-4, which gives them a record of 7-10 in the last 17 regular season games. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury signed a contract extension in the offseason but is already somewhat on the hot seat. The offense is 15th in yards and points, while the defense is 27th in points. If the Vikings’ offense needed a game to unleash the O’Connell offense fully, it is this one. The two teams played in a shootout last year, and it’s once again the most likely scenario.
Containing the Star WRs
Both teams have a superstar wide receiver on their team. Justin Jefferson is third in the league in receiving yards and has already had his bye week. He is also leading the league in yards since he entered the league in 2020. JJ also eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four of the six games. Only the Eagles and the Lions contained him, but Jefferson bounced back in a big way with three consecutive 100-yard games.
DeAndre Hopkins, meanwhile, had six seasons with over 1,000 yards. He has been one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL for almost a decade, despite a lot of subpar play from his QBs. In the last season, he struggled with injuries for the first time in his career. In 2022, Hopkins was suspended for the first six games and made his debut last week against the Saints. He caught 10 passes for 103 yards. The Vikings have to slow down the receiver to win the game.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt