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Minnesota Vikings vs. Arizona Cardinals Preview and Prediction

Author:
Carson Palmer

Carson Palmer

The Minnesota Vikings look to bounce back from a disappointing 38-7 loss to Seattle against another NFC West foe, the Arizona Cardinals, as the playoff contenders kick off Week 14 action Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.

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The Vikings enter tied with the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North's best record, despite losing an earlier head-to-head matchup in Week 9. Arizona currently sits atop the NFC West standings but looks to fend off the suddenly streaky Seahawks.

Minnesota at Arizona

Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV: NFL Network

Spread: Arizona -9

Three Things to Watch

1. Adrian Peterson-Mike Zimmer spat

Adrian Peterson took a jab at head coach Mike Zimmer after the Vikings' loss to Seattle by saying the team was "outcoached" among other things. Zimmer responded by saying, "I don't really worry about other people's opinions. I just worry about what I think."

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Should Vikings fans be concerned that their best player and coach aren't on the same page? Perhaps, but it could also mean that Zimmer is going to give his star running back more carries down the stretch against a game Cardinals defense.

2. Red-hot Red Birds

The Cardinals haven't lost a game since Oct. 18. Since then, Arizona has looked like one of the NFL's best offense with a league-best 419.5 yards per game, including a 356-yard, two-touchdown performance by quarterback Carson Palmer last week.

The Cardinals' defense has been equally impressive, holding its last two opponents to a combined 133 rushing yards and average of 316.8 yards per game — which ranks fourth in the league. Arizona also ranks third overall with 16 interceptions.

3. Can Teddy Bridgewater take over?

For better or worse, Teddy Bridgewater has been a game-managing quarterback for Minnesota. It's a positive attribute when the Vikings win and a criticism when they lose.

But he may need to step up facing one of the NFL's top teams. Adrian Peterson will remain the focus of Minnesota's offense, but with Arizona capable of jumping out to a big lead and pressuring the rushing attack, Bridgewater may need to step up and be more than just a game manager.

Final Analysis

Minnesota was exposed by a surging Seattle team and shouldn't see much of a difference on Thursday, other than a better performance from Adrian Peterson, provided he gets more touches. Arizona seems like one of the NFL's most complete teams and a legitimate contender to make a deep postseason run. The Cardinals should earn a big victory in prime time.

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Prediction: Cardinals 31, Vikings 24

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.