When the schedule for the 2012 NFL campaign was released, more than a few games were circled on the Week 7 calendar.
A playoff rematch between Houston and Baltimore undoubtedly caught some eyes, Pittsburgh traveling to Cincinnati featured two 2011 postseason participants, a Black-and-Blue battle between Detroit and Chicago would be a Monday night delight and the quarrel amongst the Jets and Patriots has become one of the NFL's best rivalries.
What wasn't on this must-see catalog was Arizona at Minnesota, understandable as the Cardinals were in the midst of a quarterback quagmire and the Vikings finished last season with a meager three wins.
Yet the game of professional football has proved a fickle sport, as the providence of teams change as quickly as the leaves of autumn. In just six games this season, the Vikings have already surpassed 2011's victory total, while the Cardinals find themselves atop a surprisingly competitive NFC West division. This conference of unanticipated 4-2 teams serves as our WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.
Even for a squad coming off a 3-13 season, an austere aura surrounded the Vikings heading into 2012. Though his career was only 11 games old, there were murmurs on the shores of Lake Minnetonka questioning if Christian Ponder would fulfill his potential as a first-round draft pick. Face of the franchise Adrian Peterson was returning from ACL and MCL surgery and his availability for the start of the season was in question.
The talented and versatile Percy Harvin was requesting a trade. Minnesota was returning most of the components from a defense that surrendered the second-most points in the league. Throw in reports of the organization setting up shop in Los Angeles if a new stadium was not constructed in the Twin Cities, and the horizon for the Vikings was bleak, indeed.
Yet the fall has served as an elixir for these woes. Ponder has avoided the sophomore slump that has plagued his quarterback-class brethren and transformed into one of the better game managers in the NFC. Not only has Peterson been present since the season opener, but the All-Pro back is averaging 83.2 yards per game.
Harvin reversed his stance on his trade demands and has been an all-around gridiron juggernaut, vaulting his name into early-season MVP consideration. The Minnesota defense is just one of 11 companies to hold opponents under 20 points per game.
Oh, and that whole ordeal about a new field?
The state ratified a deal that will see the team in a new home by the 2016 season. In short, things are coming up Vikings in 2012.
The same could be said for the Cardinals, who pulled back-to-back upsets of New England and Philadelphia is the opening weeks.
Alas, things have hit somewhat of a skid in the desert, as Arizona enters having lost their last two contests to less-than-formidable foes in St. Louis and Buffalo. Worse, Arizona has been hit hard by the injury bug, as quarterback Kevin Kolb's bruised ribs render him unavailable for Sunday, making an already depleted backfield thanks to ailments to Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells extremely vulnerable.
Luckily for the Cardinals, they still flaunt a resolute resistance. Arizona's front seven is a tenacious bunch, and the Cards secondary is one of the more ball-hawking units in the NFC. Such defensive dexterity is translating to just 16.2 points per game for Arizona's adversaries, fourth-lowest output in the league. And one cannot overlook playmaker Patrick Peterson, who has already recorded four turnovers and is a threat in the special teams arena.
With these unforeseen playoff aspirants squaring off, who comes out on top? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com simulation engine,, the Vikings pull out the victory 61.4 percent of the time by an average margin of 22-19. For the rest of this week's predictions, check below:
Each Tuesday, WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.
The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.
To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating some games on Thursdays throughout the 2012 NFL season.
Check out our 2012 NFL Season-to-Date page to follow our accuracy week-to-week and find Locks and Upsets of the Week.