Upon inspection of the injury reports for both teams going into tonight's duel in the desert, each team has one very significant name listed, and the status of each of those players is up in the air at this point in time.
For the Vikings, that player is obviously cornerback Antoine Winfield, who has been absent from the Vikings' lineup since the second quarter of the Baltimore game. We had heard that #26 would be back for the game against the Seattle Seahawks, but found out that he had been deactivated prior to the start of the game. Winfield himself had said that he expected to be back for Minnesota's game against Chicago, but he was inactive last week, too. With the Vikings having to face the best trio of receivers they'll see this year, and perhaps in the entire National Football League in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston, the Vikings could certainly use the services of Winfield this evening.
Of course, the Vikings' pass defense has been doing okay without Winfield, and have gotten some playing time for some of the guys that are lower on the depth chart, such as Karl Paymah and rookie Asher Allen. That experience will only help this team as the post-season draws closer.
Winfield has told the Star-Tribune that he will be a game-time decision for tonight. I hope that he's out there, but I think the Vikings can still win without him.
Speaking of the Cardinals' passing game, their main concern lies with the man responsible for pulling the trigger on that attack, quarterback Kurt Warner. Warner suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams a couple of weeks ago, and missed the second half of that game, along with the Cardinals' loss to Tennessee last weekend. Warner's agent has said that he would be "surprised" if Warner didn't start for the Cardinals tonight, but there hasn't been any truly definitive word as to how clear Warner is at this point. Obviously, the Arizona offense becomes much less frightening if Matt Leinart starts at quarterback, but the Vikings' defensive line will definitely need to get after whichever player starts this evening. Minnesota leads the NFL in sacks, but the Cardinals have only allowed 18 sacks in 2009, fifth-fewest in the NFL.
These two players could potentially be difference makers in tonight's matchup of two on the NFL's best teams. It will be interesting to see if either or both of them take the field for their teams.