Cardinals-Vikings Preview: It All Comes Down to Who Wants It More

Scott Z BradyCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 26: Darnell Dockett #90 of the Arizona Cardinals tackles Chester Taylor #29 of the Minnesota Vikings November 26, 2006 at the Hubert H. Humprey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The statistics are startling. When you combine the quarterback stats of Brett Favre, a certain Hall of Famer who could have retired over two years ago (before the sea-saw unretire/retire charade), and Kurt Warner, a certain Hall of Famer who became one in the last 2 years, it nearly boggles even the most sophisticated football mind.

Chances are very good that together, before their Sunday Night Football match-up in Glendale is through, they will have thrown for over 100,000 total regular season NFL yards. 100,000 yards! That's almost 57 miles! As you might imagine, with Favre being in the league nearly twice as many years as Warner, he has thrown for about 38 of those miles, to Warner’s 19 or so.

For a little national perspective, that's approximately from Manhattan to Bethlehem, Pa.; Dallas to Waco, Texas; New Orleans to Biloxi, Miss.; Orlando, Fla. to Daytona Beach, Fla.; Chicago to Kenosha, WI, or San Diego to Long Beach, CA. It’s ridiculous!

They have league MVPs, Super Bowl MVP’s, and many, many ‘good guy’ awards between them. They both play on and guide extremely potent offenses, either handing off or throwing to guys almost two decades their junior. And all the hype, as you might expect, is surrounding this HoF match-up. Even NBC saw the potential beauty (as well as rating$), and ‘flexed’ it to the marquee game of the week.

Sorry Buffalo and Miami, but...well, no. No I’m not sorry. You both stink. No soup for you!

But (and there’s always a but), this classic-in-the-making may not even happen. What with Warner missing last weeks game (a loss in Tennessee) because of lingering effects from a face plant/concussion in St Louis, the Cardinals may be going with backup Matt Leinart. If that happens won’t be known until nearly game time, according to Cards head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Last year, as most Cardinals fans know, Favre tied yet another NFL record when he tossed 6 touchdown passes against our befuddled gridiron heroes in 'Jiosey.

It was an embarrassing loss wherein the Cards defense was lit up for 56 points! Eight (8) total TDs! And that's with Favre wearing NY Jets green, and not having Adrian Peterson and this cornucopia of young receivers behind him!

Favre has been ridiculous this year. His stats are off the charts! He has thrown 24 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. You read that right. I didn’t forget the one or the two before that three, something you’d typically see from the former Green Bay Gunslinger. The mellowed but more dangerous former mustard and relish madman has matured into the wise, experienced, and patient deadly force.

Warner never was the outwardly chance-taking kind. He’s certainly confident enough in his own abilities to throw ‘chancy’ passes, and it has obviously served him well. But as a pocket passer that runs and scrambles more akin to Brett Michaels than Brett Favre, and therefore wasn't throwing across his body, underhanded, shot-putting, or behind the back, on the fly, etc., his true gunslinger opportunities were more limited.

Both have been on a literal tear of late, too. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find two more inferno-like QBs in the entire NFL at the moment. Yes Vince, that even includes you.

In his last 4 starts, Favre has thrown 12 touchdown passes and a quite un-Favre-like zero interceptions. In his three most recent starts, Warner has tossed 9 TDs, and the same amount of picks. Lets be honest, with these two guys, the superlatives and the hype are justified.

And while both will obviously have an impact on the outcome, its how those around them play, that will determine who wins and who loses this game. The Vikings arguably have the most talent in the NFC. The Cardinals aren’t far behind, if at all. It will depend on which Cardinals team shows up.

The football Gods saw fit to break up the Cardinals offensive line’s 41 game starting streak this week, of all weeks. Mike Gandy hasn’t recovered from a nagging groin injury, and looks to be out for Sunday night. That means former Cardinal Jeremy Bridges, who returned this year after a three year hiatus in Carolina, will be making his first start of the year. And he’ll be making it against all-everything DE Jared Allen. Yikes!

That means that the Cards must give Bridges help, or they’ll be scraping Warner off the field with a snow shovel. The Bears tried to put their LT, Orlando Pace, on an island against Allen. He answered with 2 sacks, an interception, and general havoc-wreaking.

The guys in the middle, Reggie Wells, Lyle Sendline, and Deuce Lutui, will have their hands full with the non-related Williams brothers. The last thing Warner needs is to have Allen on his back all day.

Maybe Lutui can somehow induce a punch in the face from Allen on the game’s 4th play, and get tossed from the game. That’ll help.

RB Tom Hightower is becoming a decent blocker, and expect him to chip either Allen, or help out RT Levi Brown a little, before making himself a relief valve in the flat for Warner. Don’t be surprised if he has double digit receptions, regardless of who starts for the Cardinals. Don' be surprised to see 2 TE sets relatively often, too.

If given enough time, there’s no reason to think that Warner, or to a lesser degree Leinart, will be able to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald (who still yearns to beat his hometown Vikings), Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston. Both the top two should, and all three can have a very good game. You won’t see a lot deep, but if Hightower and Beanie Wells can keep the safeties honest, there will be a few shots at big plays. RAC yards will be especially important.

On the other side of the ball, I expect a huge game from recently beastly DT Darnell Dockett. Double D, Nine-O, or whatever he’s going by this week, wants to show the world he’s the next defensive lineman deserving of ridiculous Albert Haynesworth-type money (how's that working out for you, Daniel Snyder?).

He'll want to show the country, as well as his peers ..and their coaches, and Allen, and Haynesorth, and ..well, everybody, that he’s just as good as the more marquee Allen, and the best D-lineman on the field Sunday night.

He’s been sneaking up the chart for a Pro Bowl invite, and this could be his last big chance to show his stuff before a national audience until...well, next Monday night in San Francisco.

Favre, as noted above, has been fabulous in avoiding picks this year. But he IS Brett Favre, and he has been prone to 20+ interception seasons over the years. I'm not saying that just tossing three picks this year for Brett Favre is a fluke in that regard...

Well wait, yes I am, because it is a fluke. That’s not ‘mean old biased Cardinals fan-hater’ saying that, the record book says it. His history says it. While you can't prop 488 touchdown passes enough, you can't say this year isn’t a fluke from a guy that has thrown over 300 interceptions, either.

I have the feeling with a little pressure from Dockett, fellow D-lineman Calais Campbell, and with an occasional LB (or our All Pro safety Adrian Wilson) blitzing, this could be the game that those picks he prone to, will come to light.

A blindside cornerback blitz or two wouldn't surprise me either. The Cards may blitz a little more with Favre this week than they did against Vince Young last week. But like last week against Chris Johnson, they have the NFL's other best running back in Adrian Peterson to respect, too. So they won’t go blitz crazy.

I see at least one, and maybe 2 picks from the ancient yet golden arm of Mr. Favre. And it won’t be solely based on whatever pressure the Big Red D can muster.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will look to take advantage of the youth and relative inexperience of WRs rookie Percy Harvin and 3rd-year pro Sydney Rice, respectively.

As I mentioned last time I wrote about this guy, Rice recently had a three game stretch wherein he caught more passes for more yards, than he did in his first two seasons combined. I see DRC with at least one pick.

I’m obviously basing this on Warner starting, in general. But it pretty much applies if Leinart plays too. He was able to take 50 percent of the snaps with the starters this week, and last week's performance should give him the confidence to build on. The only real advantage would be that, as a southpaw, Leinart wouldn’t have Allen on his blindside. But this will be a better, more meaningful game, if Warner gets the nod.

The defense kept the Titans out of the end-zone for the most part last week, and they’ll need to step up again and do it this week. No one cares how many yards they give up, as long as most end in punts and field goal attempts. If Leinart starts, the defense will just have to step up that much more, and they have the players to do it.

The team that wins, regardless of who starts, will be the team that wants it more. These are two pretty similar teams in talent. Minnesota and Favre have worked hard to get to that lofty 10-1 record. Statistically, Favre is having the best year of his superstar career, as his equally lofty 112.+ QB rating will attest to.

Forget the fact that 40 percent of those Viking wins were against teams with a combined 4-29 record, and 60 percent against a combined 12-43 mark. Forget that a miracle pass as time ran out against San Francisco, and a shanked, otherwise very makeable field goal as time ran out against Baltimore, turned two of their would-be-losses into 20 percent more of their W’s. Forget that the only team they played with a winning record (besides Favre’s former mates in Grudge-Bowls I & II - 2009), beat them by double digits.

This is the reigning NFC Champs against a team many say will unseat them. This is Hall of Famer, former MVP sizzling-hot Brett Favre vs Hall of Famer, former MVP, inferno-hot Kurt Warner (maybe). This is a game that showed so much promise, it was flexed to the national stage. This should be a hell of a football game! I can hardly wait! That being said...

The Brady Hunch:
Cardinals 31
Vikings    29