Former Vikings GM Jeff Diamond explains how the team can regain home dominance vs. Arizona

It will be desperation time for the Cardinals as they try to climb back into the NFC playoff race

Jeff Diamond
October 12, 2018 - 10:15 am

(Photo by Brian Peterson/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS/Sipa USA)

Categories: 

By Jeff Diamond, former Vikings GM, hosts The Players Show with Mike Max and Harrison Smith or Dalvin Cook live Mondays 5:30 at the Lone Oak Grill in Eagan. Register on Facebook to attend in person or subscribe via Google Play, Stitcher or iTunes.  The show is presented by the Select Minnesota Buick GMC Dealers.

  Now that the Vikings have battled back to .500 at 2-2-1 after their impressive win in Philly, the next challenge is to sustain that level of performance Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. 

As the Vikings hopefully learned in the Buffalo fiasco, they have to bring it every week during the NFL season. It's a good stretch coming up with three of four games at home and as safety Harrison Smith said on the Players Show on WCCO Radio this past Monday, the team needs to re-establish their home field as a difficult environment for visiting teams.

"We want to get the juice back in U.S. Bank Stadium," Smith said. "When it's rocking and the fans are involved with the Skol chant going, there's no other place like it. When we can do that especially when we're on defense, it puts a lot of pressure on teams.”

Here are a few factors to watch on Sunday: 

The defense has a chance to continue improvement 

As was the case with Buffalo and Josh Allen, Arizona brings a first-round quarterback in Josh Rosen along with premier running back David Johnson and future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald (a Minneapolis native). The Cardinals are off to a slow start offensively, ranking last in the league in total offense and last in rushing. So this could be an opportunity for the Vikings defense to continue the improvement they showed last Sunday.

Vikings running game on a roll

The Minnesota running game finally showed some positive signs late in the Eagles game with several big runs by Latavius Murray as the offensive line perhaps wore down the Eagles a bit. A healthy return of Dalvin Cook would be a boost so he and Murray can be the one-two punch the team envisioned. The Cardinals defense is No. 31 against the run so it could be a good week to get things going in that area and take some pressure off Kirk Cousins in the passing game.

Will Cousins stay hot?

Cousins will need to continue his strong play. He is obviously off to a terrific start this season, ranking second in passing yards and seventh in QB rating. His wide receivers also have been outstanding as Adam Thielen leads the NFL with 47 catches and set a league record with his fifth straight 100-yard game to open the season. Stefon Diggs also has been very productive with 37 receptions for 402 yards and both Thielen and Diggs have three TD receptions. 

Chandler Jones and the turnover-generating Cards D 

The Vikings offense will be challenged by a Cards D that forced five turnovers in their first win of the season last Sunday in San Francisco. Defensive end Chandler Jones led the NFL in sacks last season with 17 and has four sacks coming into this game. He was just named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his great game against the 49ers (a sack, two tackles for loss, six tackles overall, a forced fumble and fumble recovery) and he will provide a big test for the O-line. Seven-time Pro Bowl corner Patrick Peterson anchors the secondary.

A chance for a rookie?

Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff bears watching this week as he left the Eagles game with an ankle injury in the second quarter and if he's out, then Rashod Hill moves from right to left tackle and rookie Brian O'Neill (who did fine against a stout Eagles D-line) would get his first NFL start.

Hughes could be a factor

Meanwhile, watch for Zimmer to throw a bunch of blitzes at Rosen and the Minnesota defense led by Danielle Hunter (four sacks thus far) and Smith and Xavier Rhodes in the secondary will force Rosen into a couple of turnovers. Rookie Mike Hughes also is making strides in the return game and in place of the injured corner Trae Waynes (who hopefully will be back from his concussion) so Hughes could be a factor this week. It would be another important win as the Vikings try to stay within striking distance of the 3-1 Bears. 

At 1-4, it will be desperation time for the Cardinals as they try to climb back into the NFC playoff race. I'll call it 31-16 Vikings as the running game shows improvement, setting the stage for big plays from Cousins, Thielen and Diggs.

Around the NFL--4 Observations:

1. Speaking of the Bears, they come off their bye and have a road test at 3-2 Miami but the Dolphins have lost their past two games. Will Mitchell Trubisky come back to earth after his amazing six TD passes in their romp over Tampa Bay two weeks ago? And will the Bears D led by Khalil Mack continue to dominate? 

2. While the Bears-Dolphins game is of foremost concern to the Vikings, the game of the week in the NFL is Sunday night in Foxboro as the unbeaten Chiefs take on the 3-2 Patriots who seem to be starting their usual rise in the AFC. It will be fun to watch Patrick Mahomes, the league's MVP so far this season and his prolific Chiefs offense go against Bill Belichick's defense. And Tom Brady has more weapons now with Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon in the lineup. Should be quite the shootout.

3. Drew Brees—what a player and congrats to him on setting the career passing yardage mark last Monday in a big win over Washington. Class player and a credit to the sport. The Vikings see him up close on October 28 in a revenge game for the Saints (think Minneapolis Miracle). 

4. Odell Beckham Jr.—such a self-centered, delusional player...throws his coach, QB and teammates under the bus in an interview before the Carolina game and then after a last-second loss, Beckham claims he inspired his team with his inflammatory comments. I never would have given this guy a $95 million extension (with $41 mil guaranteed) as he now thinks he's untouchable and can say and do anything he wants. Buyer's remorse, Giants?  

Jeff Diamond is a former vice president/general manager of the Minnesota Vikings and former president/COO of the Tennessee Titans. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998 after the Vikings’ 15-1 season. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work including co-hosting the Players Show presented by the Select Minnesota Buick GMC Dealers with Harrison Smith or Dalvin Cook and Mike Max on News Talk 830 WCCO on Monday nights live at the Lone Oak Grill in Eagan. He also writes weekly NFL columns for sportingnews.com and does Vikings/NFL podcasts on TalkNorth.com. Diamond makes speaking appearances to corporate/civic groups and college classes on Negotiation, Labor Relations and Sports Business/Sports Management. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL.