Odds Favor Cardinals

Glendale, AZ - Though the Arizona Cardinals have clinched the NFC West, they're giving little thought to resting any players. The Minnesota Vikings certainly can't consider giving their players a break - at least not yet.

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The Cardinals, looking to improve their playoff seeding, host a Vikings club that may have a chance to clinch the NFC North when the teams meet Sunday.

Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Cardinals –3 point spread favorites for Sunday’s game against the Vikings. Current NFL Public Betting Information shows that 83% of more than 6,972 bets for this game have been placed on the Cardinals -3.

Arizona (8-5) has clinched the NFC West title with three games to spare, giving the franchise its second playoff appearance since moving from St. Louis to Arizona in 1988.

As the Cardinals still have hopes of bettering their seeding in the NFC, they aren't entertaining thoughts of resting players.

"We've got to improve our seed," Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "That's the first and foremost thing. ... That's what these next three weeks are about, putting ourselves in the best position we can going into the playoffs.

"We can officially now say we're in the playoffs. Now we want to get into the best spot that we can."

Arizona, which currently holds the fourth spot, could move up to No. 3 by beating Minnesota (8-5). With either seed, the Cardinals would host a first-round playoff game the weekend of Jan. 3-4. As West champions, they are guaranteed the franchise's first home playoff game in 61 years.

Minnesota, meanwhile, is trying to end a three-year playoff drought. If Chicago loses to New Orleans on Thursday night, the Vikings will secure the NFC North title with a win.

The Vikings, though, don't know who their starting quarterback will be.

Gus Frerotte's twisted lower back forced him out of last Sunday's game against Detroit. Tarvaris Jackson replaced him and led Minnesota to a 20-16 win.

"We just want to see who will give us the best opportunity to win, and obviously health will be a factor in that," Vikings coach Brad Childress said.

As long as he's healthy, Frerotte will be the starter. Jackson, who was benched in September after two shaky games left Minnesota at 0-2, shined against the Lions and would relish an opportunity to lead the team again.

He completed 8 of 10 passes versus Detroit for 105 yards, the go-ahead touchdown and a career-best 143.8 rating.

"He did a great job stepping in," Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said of Jackson. "I wasn't surprised. I see him time after time in practice making big plays and making good throws and things like that."

Frerotte hasn't put up sparkling numbers, with 15 interceptions, 12 touchdowns and 30 sacks. His veteran leadership, though, has given the offense a boost.

Arizona, meanwhile, has gotten highly productive play all season from its veteran quarterback, Kurt Warner. He's having his best season since 2001, when he led St. Louis to a Super Bowl appearance.

Warner led the Cardinals to another outstanding offensive effort last Sunday in a 34-10 win over the Rams. He completed 72.7 percent (24 of 33) of his passes for 279 yards and a TD as Arizona topped 30 points for the sixth time this season.

The Cardinals also improved to 5-1 at home, where they are 11-3 since Whisenhunt took over as coach in 2007.

Safety Adrian Wilson, the longest-tenured Arizona player, cited coaching as the difference between this team and the ones that failed in the past.

"The coaching is some of the best that I have had since I've been here," said Wilson, who has spent all eight of his NFL seasons with the Cardinals. "The accountability of everybody. When we play bad, guys step up and tell you that they played bad. There is nobody that is trying to hide. That is the difference between this team and every other team, the accountability."

He leads an Arizona secondary that held the Rams to 228 passing yards and picked off Marc Bulger once. The Cardinals rank 10th in the NFL in total defense, allowing 312.6 yards per game.

Minnesota has been even better, ranking seventh with 291.0 total yards allowed per contest.

The Vikings have been particularly stout against the run. They're ranked second in the NFL in rush defense, giving up 73.3 yards per game.

Despite the league's attempt to suspend them, defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams lead Minnesota's line.

On Dec. 5, a federal judge in Minnesota blocked the NFL from suspending the duo for violating the league's anti-doping policy by using a banned diuretic. Two days later, they helped hold the Lions to 77 yards on the ground.

This will be the first meeting between the Cardinals and Vikings since Nov. 26, 2006, when Minnesota won 31-26 at home.

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
MINNESOTA is 5-3 against the spread versus ARIZONA since 1992
MINNESOTA is 6-2 straight up against ARIZONA since 1992
4 of 8 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
ARIZONA is 1-0 against the spread versus MINNESOTA over the last 3 seasons 
MINNESOTA is 1-0 straight up against ARIZONA over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at ARIZONA since 1992
ARIZONA is 2-2 against the spread versus MINNESOTA since 1992
ARIZONA is 2-2 straight up against MINNESOTA since 1992
3 of 4 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries
MINNESOTA
[DE] Jayme Mitchell IR - Knee - 08/09/08
[DT] Kenderick Allen IR - Wrist - 08/19/08
[TE] Garrett Mills missed last game %27?%27 - Ankle - 11/30/08
[CB] Charles Gordon expected to miss rest of season - Ankle - 11/10/08
[DL] Pat Williams expected to miss four games - Suspension - 12/02/08
[LB] Heath Farwell IR - Knee - 08/11/08
[DE] Brian Robison expected to miss 2-4 weeks - Knee - 12/03/08
[DL] Kevin Williams expected to miss four games - Suspension - 12/02/08
[DE] Kenechi Udeze IR - Illness - 08/16/08
[LB] E.J. Henderson IR - Foot - 10/04/08
[OT] Artis Hicks missed last game %27?%27 - Arm - 11/30/08
ARIZONA
[S] Matt Ware missed last game %27?%27 - Facial - 11/27/08
[DB] Roderick Hood missed last game %27?%27 - Ribs - 11/27/08
[LB] Clark Haggans missed last game %27?%27 - Foot - 11/27/08
[LB] Ali Highsmith IR - Knee - 11/03/08

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Posted: 12/10/08 10:08PM ET

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