The Vikings are coming off a tough OT loss to the Bengals. One of the few bright spots was the quarterback play - Kirk Cousins completed 49/52 attempts (73.%), good for 351 yards, 2 TDs, 0 picks, and a 80.9 PFF grade (8th best in the league). The receiving tandem of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson is considered one of the best there is, but the options behind the two of them have been jack shit. The Vikings have turned to 5th round rookie KJ Osborn, who worked mostly out of the slot last week. Osborn finished with an impressive 7 catches on 9 targets for 76 yards. I've never been one to overreact to one game, but the third receiving option (dating back to the Stefon Diggs days) has been a massive issue for the Vikings for a few years now, so it won't take much for Osborn to be an improvement. The offensive line has long since struggled and should continue to do so. Their biggest investment in improving the line was taking Christian Darrisaw 23rd overall in the draft, and he's going to miss with a groin injury. On the defensive side of the ball, the line was a laughingstock in 2020. It'll be much improved to start the season, with Danielle Hunter and Michael Pierce returning from injury and a COVID-19 opt out. They did get some unfortunate news this week when DE Everson Griffen was diagnosed with a concussion after getting in a car accident, which will result in his absence Sunday. LB Eric Kendricks is routinely one of the better coverage linebackers in the game -- he's listed as questionable with a quad injury, but his full participation at practice on Friday suggests he'll play. The secondary is also improved from a year ago when they were trotting out no names at corner -- Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland at corner and Xavier Woods at safety are all new to the team. Along with Harrison Smith, it's at least a respectable secondary.
The Cardinals started out the year red hot, taking down the Titans 38-13. Kyler Murray was a goddamn beast, completing 21/32 passes (65.6%), good for 289 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 pick. PFF graded 6 of his throws as "big time throws," which was most in the leauge last week. He's an incredible quarterback with outstanding mobility. DeAndre Hopkins will lead the way at receiver, with Christian Kirk and the corpse of AJ Green in complimentary roles. The offensive line has holes -- particularly at the guard positions, but it's worth pointing out that they allowed only 2 pressures all last week. The defensive line is led by Chandler Jones, JJ Watt, and Markus Golden. It's a solid trio of players, all who can win off the edge. The linebackers are rookie Zaven Collins and second year man Isaiah Simmons. It's a combination that screams talent and potential (both were 1st round picks), but something we'll need to see on the field before going any further. The weakness is without question at the cornerback positions -- after Peterson departed for the Vikings (REVENGE GAME!), they brought in Malcolm Butler. However, Butler retired for personal reasons in the offseason. Budda Baker is a solid free safety, but every other starter is subpar at best.
Look for Thielen and Jefferson to light up the Cardinals secondary while the public rides the recency bias train. Take the Vikings with the points.