Cardinals at Vikings -- Week 7

Where: Mall of America Field, Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn. (turf, indoors)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

Spread: Vikings by 6

Records: Vikings (Overall: 4-2, NFC North: 1-0); Cardinals (Overall: 4-2, NFC East: 1-1)

Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Oct. 9, 2011: Vikings 34, Cardinals 10; Nov. 7, 2010: Vikings 27, Cardinals 24. Series record: Vikings lead the series 14-10.

What matters: After a surprising 4-1 start, the Vikings lost a winnable game in Washington last Sunday and need to bounce back quickly against the Arizona Cardinals to keep their season headed in the right direction. Coach Leslie Frazier puts a huge emphasis on the team winning its home games, but the visiting Cardinals will create quite a challenge. The highly ranked Cardinals' defense will focus on bottling up RB Adrian Peterson and force the Vikings to beat them through the air. And the Vikings' defense will have to rebound from its worse game in four weeks and regain its dominance in stopping the ground attack of Arizona.

“I think guys are realizing how good we can be,” Jared Allen said. “[They] realized that there was a mistake here, a mistake there. We’ve got to forget this because we can be really good when we play the way we are supposed to play. So everybody got in Monday, got on the tape, there was nofinger pointing, everybody owned it. From the coaching staff on down to theplayers, everybody owned it. We move on and get ready to play.”

Each week, it’s the Vikings defense’s goal to stop the run and then get after the quarterback. The Vikings didn’t do either last week but have a chance this week against a porous offensive line that has given up 22 sacks the past three weeks.

Who matters: QB Christian Ponder threw for a season-high 352 yards last week, but his two interceptions hurt the team’s chances to win. Failure in the red zone early in the game came back to haunt the Vikings late, and Ponder will have to improve in each of these categories this week. Ponder should get WR Jerome Simpson back from injury to help him stretch the field, which will be important as the Cardinals defense is ranked 10th in the league against the pass (giving up 216 yards per game). The Vikings need to score touchdowns, not settle for field goals. This is becoming a weekly refrain -- and Vikings OC Bill Musgrave knows it.

“We don’t feel good about it, especially this last week,” Musgrave said. “We didn’t get enough bang out of our buck for all the work that takes place to get down in the red area, was it seven times? We want to come away with sevens. We’re anxious to get back on the field, starting with this week, and be so much better.”

Key matchups: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald is a tough matchup for any defense, but he presents a particular challenge for the Vikings' secondary. Fitzgerald is a big and powerful receiver, and his experience will create challenges for the younger and smaller members of the Vikings secondary. Fitzgerald said the Cardinals, like the Vikings, have had red-zone struggles of late and the switch back to quarterback John Skelton for Kevin Kolb this week may not necessarily change that. 

“The Metrodome is a really, really tough place to play,” Fitzgerald said. “The problem we’ve had, at least last year, is playing from behind. When you get behind the Vikings that’s when [the defensive line] pins their ears back and starts rushing the passer. They can make your day very long. When you get behind, that Metrodome gets very loud, and we want to keep Ragnar (the mascot) off the field as much as possible.”

Injuries of note:I The Vikings are remarkably healthy at this point in the season. Allen and Peterson missed practice on Thursday to nurse their wounds (a groin and ankle, respectively), but Frazier expects them both to play on Sunday. The Vikings also expect the return of Simpson, who was inactive last week with leg weakness resulting from a lower back injury. Frazier said that he looked good in practice all week.

Inside stuff: Vikings K Blair Walsh is making a huge bid for team rookie of the year. He is tied for the league lead with 24 kickoff touchbacks. As a result, The Vikings are first in the NFL in average starting position following a kickoff (26.7 yard line). Walsh also is tied for second in the NFL with 16 field goals made, which is a Vikings rookie record for field goals in a season. Walsh also has the third-most points scored in the NFL with 60.

Connections: Fitzgerald and rookie WR Michael Floyd both grew up in Minnesota. Fitzgerald played football at Holy Angels High School, while Floyd played for Cretin Durham Hall. The Vikings acquired CB A.J. Jefferson in a trade from the Cardinals on Sept. 1, and the Vikings coaching staff has been pumping him for information this week on his old team.

“[The coaches] all wanted to talk to me, and I feel like part of the coaching staff now,” said Jefferson with a laugh.

Stat you should know: Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph leads the league among all tight ends with five touchdowns catches. Rudolph has 25 catches on the season, meaning he scores a touchdown every five catches. Last season he had 26 catches and three touchdowns for the whole year.

WR Percy Harvin ranks first in the NFL with 49 receptions, but he only has one receiving touchdown. Perhaps the Vikings need to keep him on the field for red-zone plays -- he was only in for four of nine red-zone plays last week.

Record watch: RB Adrian Peterson once again came up short in his bid to tie Robert Smith for the team record with 29 career 100-yard rushing games. 

Looking ahead: The Vikings have a quick turnaround as they host the Tampa Buccaneers on Thursday night. 

Prediction: Vikings 21, Cardinals 17

For more Vikings news and notes, follow Joe Oberle on Twitter @CBSVikings and @joeoberle.