1:00 PM ET, October 21, 2012
Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, MN
The Arizona Cardinals' suspect pass protection was partially responsible for the loss of their starting quarterback last week.
Skelton takes over for the struggling Cardinals on Sunday when they visit the Minnesota Vikings, who are looking to open 4-0 at home.
Kolb, who assumed Arizona's starting quarterback position in Week 1 when Skelton suffered a sprained ankle, injured his ribs while being sacked in last Sunday's 19-16 overtime loss to Buffalo. The Cardinals, losers of two in a row following a surprising 4-0 start, said Kolb will be out for "an unspecified period of time."
It might have been only a matter of time until Kolb suffered an injury, considering the beating he had been taking. The Cardinals have allowed a league-worst 28 sacks, with 22 of them coming in the last three games.
Skelton is now faced with the difficult challenge of trying to stay upright against a Minnesota team that enters Week 7 ranked 11th in the NFL with 15 sacks. Vikings pass-rushing specialist Jared Allen has a sack in each of the last four games, and an NFL-best 26 since the start of last season.
Skelton did little to impress after replacing Kolb last week, completing 2 of 10 passes for 45 yards with an interception. The pick led to Rian Lindell's game-winning field goal.
"(He) can't make that throw," Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Skelton has proven he can win, though, going 6-2 as a starter last season.
"We are comfortable with whatever quarterback lines up Sunday, he'll get the job done," running back LaRod Stephens-Howling told the team's official website.
Christian Ponder had given the Vikings (4-2) confidence in their quarterback for the first month of the season, but he has regressed a bit.
After throwing for 824 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in his first four games, Ponder has four TDs and four picks in the last two.
His mistakes cost the Vikings in last Sunday's 38-26 loss at Washington, as one of his interceptions was returned for a touchdown and his fumble deep in Minnesota's own territory set up another Redskins touchdown. Despite his subpar showing, coach Leslie Frazier stressed that Ponder is only in his second season, and his first as a full-time starter.
"There's going to be some growing pains along the way," Frazier said. "We know that. This is a part of the process with him, part of the evolution of being an NFL starter. And we grow as a team, he'll grow. But things like what happened (Sunday) could happen as he continues to gain more experience."
It helps that Ponder has a healthy Adrian Peterson in the backfield.
Peterson enters the week ranked third in the NFC in rushing with 499 yards, and is averaging 96.8 yards in four career starts against Arizona. He amassed 122 yards and three touchdowns in last season's 34-10 victory over the Cardinals, the Vikings' sixth straight home win in the series.
Last year's victory over Arizona marked Minnesota's lone home win, but they've won all three of their games in Minneapolis this season.
Peterson will be facing an Arizona defense that has yielded 276 rushing yards in its last two games. Despite being susceptible against the run, the Cardinals have still been tough to score on, allowing an average of 16.2 points -- fourth-best in the NFL entering Week 7.
"We know we're going to be in the game at the end of it. We've got a great defense," Arizona offensive guard Daryn Colledge said. "They've given us an opportunity every single week to be in a game."
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After watching film of both teams, Scouts Inc. breaks down key elements of the Week 7 Cardinals-Vikings matchup.
• Keep Ponder contained: Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton has done a phenomenal job of dialing up pressure packages that create turnovers and get to the quarterback. He is using the blitz a lot with his four starting linebackers all contributing depending on down and distance and offensive formations. He will want to continue that pressure but will also remind his rushers to keep Vikings QB Christian Ponder contained as Ponder has become one of the better quarterbacks in the league when it comes to extending the play and getting the pass off from outside the pocket.
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|Avg Points Allowed||16.9||18.7|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||ARI|
|Rush Yds Allowed||ARI|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Minnesota leads 5-2|
|Oct 9, 2011||ARI 10, @MIN 34|
|Nov 7, 2010||ARI 24, @MIN 27|
|Dec 6, 2009||ARI 30, MIN 17|
|Dec 14, 2008||ARI 14, MIN 35|
|Nov 26, 2006||ARI 26, @MIN 31|
|Dec 28, 2003||ARI 18, MIN 17|
Christian Ponder's average pass has traveled just 5.6 yards downfield this season, 1.5 yards less than the next lowest quarterback. Ponder's passes have become even shorter when the Vikings have trailed (5.4) and when in a tied game (4.4).[+]
ESPN Stats & Information