Aside from the fact that it means the Williams Wall will be playing the rest of season, the best part of Judge Magneson's decision to extend his injunction until a hearing can be conducted, is that it’s a rebuke of Commissioner Goodell’s dictatorial regime. As has been said by many other people, the way that Goodell has handled disciplinary issues, whether they were drug related, off the field or on the field, has been heavy handed and has hurt the NFL by focusing the scandal hungry media’s attention on the issues, not to mention taken a lot of joy out of the season by denying fans the chance to think only about what’s happening on the field.
The Magic Number
The Vikings’ magic number remains at 2 after the Saints lost to da Bears last night. And, to make it even worse, Pierre Thomas, who I missed out on by one waiver spot, and who I’m facing in the second round of my fantasy playoffs, had a monster game. Just a bad night all around.
The Line Battle
Any doubts about the Vikings’ acquisition of Jared Allen have been laid to rest by his (and the defensive line’s) performance this year. The Purple People Eaters have returned and are the best line in the NFL. They continue to dominate the run, and are second in adjusted line yards, second in stuff rate and second in power success percentage. And the improvement in their pass rush has been more than anyone could ask for, jumping from 28th overall in adjusted sack rate, at 5.5% to 1st overall at 9.0%.
The line will have to continue to play well against the Cardinals for the Vikings to win. The Purple can’t win a shoot out against a passing game like the Cardinals, which means they have to get to Kurt Warner. Warner has a quick release, but when he’s forced to make decisions under pressure, he tends to make bad ones. The Cardinals offensive line is 8th in adjusted sack rate, at 4.1%, and the Vikings will need their front four to get to Warner without any help if their secondary and linebackers are going to have a chance to cover Fitzgerald (2nd in WR DYAR), Boldin (4th in DYAR), Breaston (13th in DYAR), Arrington and Hightower. And considering they’re 29th in adjusted line yards, it’s safe to say that Arizona’s game plan will be like the one the Cardinals used in 2006, when they threw the ball 51 times and ran only 5 times.
Viva La Tarvaris Revolucion
The Cardinals present a particular problem for the Vikings because their strengths match up well against the Vikings’ weaknesses. In particular, on defense, they’re solid against the run (-8.2% DVOA, 8th overall) and weak against the pass (16.3% DVOA, 19th overall). That makes it all the more important that the Tarvaris Jackson that played in the second half against the Lions show up again on Sunday. If he makes his reads, finds the open receiver and keeps the chains moving with accurate passes and his feet like he did while leading three scoring drives against Detroit, the Vikings will win this game. If he forces throws, doesn’t hit his receivers or just turns the ball over like Gus Frerotte has, the Vikings likely won’t have a chance. Even the best defense in the NFL (which the Vikings are actually close to being) isn’t going to stop the Cardinals every time they have the ball—they’re just too explosive. Give them enough opportunities by turning the ball over or going three and out and they will score and score a lot.
The Big Picture
A win on Sunday will guarantee the Vikings their first winning season under Brad Childress and force da Bears to win out to have a chance to win the division. Quite simply, it’s a must win game, especially when you consider that the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with the Falcons and Giants coming to town to close out the season. A win likely means the playoffs. A loss could quite easily be the first of three, and the beginning of the end of the season. So let’s all hope that Jared Allen is able to play and he joins a motivated Williams Wall in the Arizona backfield on Sunday afternoon.