Another Huge NFC Game for the Panthers

Sharon Thorsland
December 08, 2017 - 7:09 am

USA Today Images

The Panthers open a three game home stand on Sunday when they take on the Minnesota Vikings.

After dropping a tough one to the Saints last week, things certainly don't get any easier this week - the Vikings are 10-2 on the season and have won eight in a row after shutting down the Falcons and their potent offense last week.

The Panthers saw their four game win streak come to an end with the loss in New Orleans, but are still in the playoff hunt at 8-4 on the year. 

This is a match-up of two outstanding defenses. The Panthers are sixth in the league allowing under 300 yards per game, while the Vikings boast the NFL's 2nd ranked unit that allows just 17 points a contest. They're also second against the run, giving up just 78 yards a game – the Panthers counter with the league's fifth ranked rushing attack that averages 128 yards a contest. The Vikings have a fierce pass rush, led by Pro Bowler Everson Griffin – he's 4th in the NFL with 12 sacks on the year, and also has three forced fumbles. Danielle Hunter and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Joseph Linval have combined for eight and a half more. Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks leads the team in tackles, he teams with Pro Bowler Anthony Barr and rookie Ben Gedeon.

The Vikings secondary boasts a trio of Pro Bowlers in safety Harrison Smith and cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Terrance Newman. Smith leads the team with three interceptions, while Rhodes is a shutdown corner who will likely be on Panther receiver Devin Funchess for the game. 

The Viking's offense is almost as good as the defense, ranking fifth in the league in total offense and 6th in rushing offense. Journeyman Case Keenum starts at quarterback and has been impressive in relief of the injured Sam Bradford this season. Keenum has thrown for over 2700 yards and 16 touchdowns with just five interceptions, and he's only been sacked 12 times. He'll face a Panther defense that ranks 5th in the NFL with 34 sacks. 

Keenum's favorite target is Adam Thielen, who worked his way up from the practice squad to become the Viking's leading receiver. The Minnesota native has 74 catches and is fourth in the NFL with 1,056 yards. Thielen teams with 3rd year player Stefon Diggs, who has five touchdowns and is averaging over 15 yards a grab. Six foot six Kyle Rudolph starts at tight end; he's got six scores. The Panthers rank 7th in the NFL allowing just 209 passing yards a game, and they're even better against the run, giving up a stingy 88 yards per contest, that's 4th in the league. The Vikings have a pair of solid backs in Pro Bowler Letavius Murray and Jerick “Jet' McKinnon. They've combined for eight touchdowns and average nearly 123 yards per game, that's 6th in the NFL.

The Panthers know they've got their work cut out for them.

The Vikings are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now, they've won five in a row on the road and knocked of the Panthers last season in Charlotte.

This game certainly has postseason implications for both teams, and it's going to feel like a playoff game, said Panther offensive lineman Trai Turner. “You've got a team coming in who's on a roll like they are – it's pretty big,” said Turner. “We have to be on all cylinders and ready to go from the start.”


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