No one will deny that the Vikings have been the better overall team to date, but how much better are they than the Cardinals?
Let us microscope the Vikings' and Cardinals' schedules and results to get a better feel for just how much actually separates them this season.
Disclaimer: Make no mistake, this has no hope of being unbiased. I am a Cardinals fan and have not watched every snap of the Vikings' games, so I am surely missing some key points in their analysis. I have however watched every second of Arizona ball.
1. San Francisco L 16-20 (0-1): Hard fought game, division rival.
It can be said that with the departure of Todd Haley, the flow of the Cardinals' offense wasn't quite in sync with Ken Whisenhunt's first time out calling plays in awhile.
Held Frank Gore to 30 yards on 22 carries.
2. @ Jacksonville W 31-17 (1-1): The Cardinals' nemesis last regular season was winning on the road. In their first attempt, they completely dominated Jacksonville for three quarters.
Jacksonville's 17 points were a little deceiving as it came up against prevent defense.
Held Maurice Jones-Drew to 66 yards on 13 carries, but 36 came on one run.
3. Indianapolis L 10-31 (1-2): After a promising start to the game, this was a poor all-around effort by the Cardinals.
They were flat and out of sorts in all phases for most of the game.
Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Pierre Garçon embarrassed Arizona, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in particular.
4. BYE WEEK
5. Houston W 28-21 (2-2): Arizona again completely dominated for three quarters.
When they went to prevent defense, Matt Schaub and company mounted a comeback.
A goal-line stand by Arizona prevented the Texans from tying to force overtime.
6. @ Seattle W 27-3 (3-2): Arizona completely dominated this game from start to finish.
One of their most complete wins in team history.
Held Matt Hasselbeck to 112 yards passing and Seattle to 14 yards rushing on 11 carries.
7. @ NY Giants W 24-17 (4-2): In a signature win, the Cardinals stymied the Giants who were 5-1 before this game, by forcing four turnovers and holding last year's best rushing team to 107 total yards on the ground.
The Giants could only muster three second-half points.
8. Carolina L 21-34 (4-3): Another poor all-around effort by the Cardinals, who were dominated by the previously stagnant Panthers, in a revenge game.
The Cardinals had embarrassed the Panthers last postseason on their home turf, to which the Panthers returned the favor.
Arizona came into the game with the top ranked run defense, but were exploited for 270 ground yards.
9. @ Chicago W 41-21 (5-3): Cardinals rebound nicely by dominating the Bears. It was 31-7 at halftime.
In prevent defense, the Bears got back into the game. Matt Leinart helped them out by throwing an INT on his only attempt, and was immediately replaced with Warner.
10. Seattle W 31-20 (6-3): Seattle gave it everything they had, playing maybe their best game of the season, only to lose by 11 points to a superior team.
11. @ St. Louis W 21-13 (7-3): With Kurt Warner at the helm, the Cardinals were cruising with a 21-3 halftime lead.
He suffered a concussion at the end of the second quarter however, and the still rusty Leinart was unable to lead the team to points.
The defense held strong and mopped up, securing the win.
12. @ Tennessee L 17-20 (7-4): Playing the hot Titans, who had won four straight, without Warner.
Leinart improved, and the Cardinals held a 17-13 advantage with two minutes remaining before Vince Young's now instant classic, 18-play 99-yard drive, won the game on the last play of the game for Tennessee.
An all around well-played game by both sides.
1. @ Cleveland W 34-20 (1-0): Okay so the Vikings beat the Browns.
If there is a negative here it is they gave up 20 points to the second-worst scoring team in the NFL.
2. @ Detroit W 27-13 (2-0): Slayed the mighty...err, a...Lions.
3. San Francisco W 27-24 (3-0): Barely escaped with a win on the final play of the game, a fantastic desperation heave perfectly placed by Brett Favre and wonderfully received by journeyman Greg Lewis in the end zone.
Hey a win is a win, even if it is by the hair on a chinny-chin-chin.
4. Green Bay W 30-23 (4-0): The Aaron Rodgers/Brett Favre Bowl I. The Vikings survive by a touchdown.
5. @ St. Louis W 38-10 (5-0): A dominating victory by the Vikings.
6. Baltimore W 33-31 (6-0): The Vikings get the 'W' when the Ravens miss their attempt at a game-winning field goal on the last play of the game.
7. @ Pittsburgh L 17-27 (6-1): The Steelers hand the Vikings their first 'L' in a defensive battle.
8. @ Green Bay W 38-26 (7-1): The Aaron Rodgers/Brett Favre Bowl II. Minnesota holds off Green Bay who scored 23 second-half points.
9. BYE WEEK
10. Detroit W 27-10 (8-1): Wow they beat Detroit again.
11. Seattle W 35-9 (9-1): Well at least the Cardinals aren't the only ones who can utterly dismantle the Seahawks.
12. Chicago W 36-10 (10-1): Again, at least the Cardinals aren't the only ones who can pile on a crumbling squad.
Using this breakdown as evidence, you can see that Arizona has put up dominating performances in five of their seven wins. Minnesota also has put up five or six.
Arizona's opponents are 55-66, and Minnesota's are 45-76.
So what is the point of this process, and what does it all mean?
While it would be simple-minded to attempt to draw only one meaning from all of this data, I would like to point out that these two teams are more evenly matched than the media would have us believe.
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