Vikings-Cardinals matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Nov. 04, 2010 @ 10:12 a.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Here's another key matchup to check out in Sunday's Vikings-Cardinals game:

Cardinals RB Beanie Wells vs. Vikings front seven

The idea goes something like this: You can aid an inconsistent run game. At least in theory. But the Cardinals have had a mixed-bag rushing attack this season, and Beanie Wells, the man they wanted to shoulder the load, has not delivered as expected. Neither has anyone else, really. Tim Hightower scored in each of the first two games of the season and put forth a 115-yard effort in a loss to the Falcons, but the coaches don't trust him because of his faulty hands. LaRod Stephens-Howling has given the team a few bursts, including a 4-41-1 rushing game last week, but isn't an every-down back.

The Vikings have been a solid run defense with only a few big bursts allowed (first half against the Dolphins, Week Five against the Jets, and the second half against the Patriots) against the run. But this is not the same unit that ranked first or second several years running in terms of rush defense. NT Pat Williams has aged considerably. DT Kevin Williams is not having his best season. MLB E.J. Henderson has been a mix of good and bad after his miraculous comeback from a broken leg. And DE Jared Allen has been flailing away in what has been his worst season.

It's weakness against relative strength on paper, but the Vikings have to prove they can win at the line of scrimmage against the Cardinals' offensive line. Wells is a bigger back who can get out into space, but he's not overly elusive or shifty in the hole. This means that good, hat-on-hat, gap-control defense should do the trick; they can't let the Cardinals' big, physical linemen assert their will early in the game.