The Cardinals will host Vikings Sunday for their season home opener, looking to start a second straight season 2-0, with State Farm Stadium expecting a stadium full of fans for the first time since the pandemic. The 27th meeting between the franchises welcomes long-time Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson's return and a Vikings team hunting for its first 2021 victory.
Here are five Cards to watch for in this week's spotlight:
During training camp and the preseason, the rookie has impressed. His next potential test is Vikings receiver Adam Thielen, a two-time Pro Bowler who posted nine catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals. In Tennessee, Wilson played 91 percent of the snaps and matched up frequently with star receiver A.J. Brown and future Hall of Farmer Julio Jones, holding his own. Wilson was only targeted four times, allowing just three catches for 10 yards. If Wilson continues to develop, the Cardinals might have something special.
Watt generated four quarterback pressures and had a significant role in limiting the Titans run game. His two tackles on All-Pro Derrick Henry resulted in a one-yard loss and a zero-yard gain. Watt has 101 career sacks, second in the NFL since 2012. Since Chandler Jones recorded an earth-shattering five-sack performance Week One, expect the Vikings to pay extra attention to the linebacker, creating a potential field day for Watt.
Milestone watch: A sack on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins will make him the 41st different signal-caller Watt has sacked in his career.
Operating in the slot seems ideal for Kirk. According to Pro Football Focus, 96 percent of his routes came in the slot. The result? Five receptions for 70 catches and two touchdowns. His 85.9 Pro Football Focus grade clocked in third amongst all NFL receivers— and above Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins. Kirk emerged as the clear No. 3 receiver, and could have a big season in the final year of his rookie contract.
Milestone watch: If quarterback Kyler Murray finds Kirk in the end zone twice, Kirk will have multiple receptions in consecutive games for the second time in his career and join Larry Fitzgerald as the only player in franchise history to accomplish the feat multiple times.
Look, D-Hop is D-Hop – arguably the NFL's best receiver. From a production standpoint, the world knows what to expect from Hopkins – countless catches for countless yards and multiple touchdowns. That's what happened in Tennessee: six receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns. But since Peterson returns and could shadow Hopkins, including the wideout on this list became a must. The two have a history of great battles.
Milestone watch: With a reception Sunday, Hopkins will extend his streak to 128 consecutive games with a catch. With a touchdown reception, Hopkins will become the first Cardinals player with at least three touchdowns in the first two games of the season since Fitzgerald in 2016.
Collins sits in an interesting place, knowing GM Steve Keim drafted him first round as the anointed starter over Jordan Hicks, leading to the veteran's trade request. Fast forward to Week One, Hicks played 95 percent of snaps compared to Collins' 34 percent. The rookie played well, generating a 72.5 Pro Football Focus score, the highest-ranking among rookie linebackers. The coaches have insisted all along the snap breakdown for Collins and Hicks will be based on each week's game plan. Given that the Vikings like to lean on running back Dalvin Cook, it will be interesting to see if Collins earns any more snaps this week.
The Cardinals' five players to watch Sunday against the Vikings: WR DeAndre Hopkins, DL J.J. Watt, LB Zaven Collins, WR Christian Kirk and CB Marco Wilson.