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Previewing The Panthers

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Last week’s preview was the first time all year that I was thrilled I was wrong.  This week, I for sure hope I am right, however.

We are headed to Carolina, hot off of a big win at home, to face a team with some of the worst injury luck in the NFL (10 players placed on injured reserve).

Here we go with the preview:

VIKINGS PASSING GAME (Advantage: Panthers)

It all starts up front, which is why I am giving the Panthers 6th ranked pass defense the edge against the Vikings 11th ranked passing offense. 

Do I have faith that Bryant McKinnie can keep Julius Peppers in check?  No.

Do I have faith that Bryant McKinnie and Jim Kleinsasser can keep Peppers in check?  Maybe.

In other words, I fear that Brett Favre will be facing a good deal of pressure on Sunday night.  As we know, pressure can potentially force Favre to make mistakes with the football.

That Panthers have playmakers on defense to take advantage of any miscues made by opposing quarterbacks.  They have 18 interceptions on the year, with eight different players having registered picks this year.  The leader is Chris Gamble with four picks, who is partially responsible for shutting down Randy Moss last week.

Defensive end Tyler Brayton had suffered a concussion, but is listed as probable.  Cornerback Richard Marshall, who is second on the team in tackles and interceptions, has an injury to his ankle that will make him be listed as questionable.

For the Vikings, the biggest factor is whether or not wide receiver Percy Harvin will be able to return after migraines have rendered him unable to perform for over a week now.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Bryant McKinnie will face his toughest challenge of the year against Julius Peppers.  Last year, McKinnie was facing suspension when the Vikings took on the Panthers.  Peppers nothed one sack against Artis Hicks.  It will be interesting to see how McKinnie fares against Peppers in different situations, and exactly how much help the Vikings decide to give him.  If I were Brett Favre, I would practice “drifting” to my right on every snap this week.

VIKINGS RUNNING GAME (Advantage: Vikings)

The Vikings have the 11th ranked rushing offense going against Carolina’s 26th ranked rushing defense, who are giving up 4.8 yards per rush.

Adrian Peterson may have gained some steam with a solid outing last week, and Chester Taylor is again showing his importance to this team.  Plus, the Vikings starting offensive line should only be getting healthier after a week of rest.

The Vikings will probably attempt to stick to “their game” this week and simply force the ball down Carolina’s throat.

There is one giant roadblock in their way, however, and he goes by the name Jon Beason.  Beason already has an incredible 93 solo tackles on the year, a whopping 39 of which have come in the last three weeks.  Just to put that number into perspective, the Vikings leading tackler is Chad Greenway with 65 solo tackles, a full 28 tackles behind Beason.

If the Vikings can take Beason out of the picture, via misdirection or assigned blocking, then the rest of the Panther defense is extremely vulnerable to the run. 

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Adrian Peterson is everything to this team’s future, and there have been an awful lot of question marks in regards to his fumbling and recent struggles.  See if Peterson builds off of last week’s success against a run defense that should have him salivating.

VIKINGS PASS DEFENSE (Advantage:  Vikings)

The Vikings 16th ranked pass defense is coming off one of the best games they’ve had in years and now get to travel to play Carolina’s 28th ranked passing offense.  Carolina will feature a pair of backup tackles and a backup quarterback named Matt Moore.

This Vikings defense should be licking their lips right about now.

Moore actually has a higher quarterback rating than Jake DelHomme this year, but that isn’t saying much as Moore’s rating is still an abysmal 69.

Speaking of 69, Jared Allen will be looking to make that number go down as he tries to regain some momentum after a few weeks of frustrating double-teams.  The Panthers offensive line is so banged up, however, that if Allen isn’t getting to Moore, then somebody will be.

Antoine Winfield being back in the lineup helped dish up an improved performance out of our secondary, and it made everyone (even the safeties) look better. 

Steve Smith is still a worry, as always.  He has 765 yards and 5 touchdowns this year.  He always is capable of making a huge play, and we are going to need so top-notch play out of our safeties this week to prevent him from going hog wild.  The tenacious pass rush should help matters as well.

What scares me most about this offense, is the potential to throw screen passes to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.  Stewart is questionable with a toe injury, but either way, screens have really hurt this Viking defense on numerous occasions this year.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Cedric Griffin impresses a lot of people when he is on top of his game (Ochocinco) but also can just get burned on seemingly every down (Boldin) when he isn’t.  The next step for Cedric Griffin on his path to greatness is to become consistent.  He will be tested this week.  When the Panthers line Steve Smith up on his side Griffin needs to show he can cover one of the NFL’s best.  When a screen pass is thrown to Deangelo Williams on his side, he needs to show he can stop one the NFL’s best.  Keep a close eye on Griffin and let me know what you think.

VIKINGS RUN DEFENSE (Advantage:  Vikings)

The Panthers 4th ranked running offense could pose a large threat for the Vikings 4th ranked run defense.  Like I said last week, however, as long as the WilliamsWall is intact there is not a running back in the NFL that scares me too much.

The Vikings almost gave up 100 yards to Cedric Benson last week, which would have made him the first 100 yard rusher against the Vikings in like 50 years.  He didn’t get there though.  I don’t think DeAngelo Williams or the hobbled Jonathan Stewart will either.

Sure, they may break of one or two big runs like Benson did last week, but for the most part I expect (as we all should) the Vikings to stop the run with relative certainty. 

The Panthers are sure to try and beat the Vikings on the ground, however, as they don’t want their backup quarterback to be sitting behind a porous offensive line against the Vikings pass rush.  Running is what the Panthers do best, and if they are going to beat the Vikings it will be by doing just that.

Williams and Stewart are averaging 5.3 and 4.6 yards per rush respectively.  The Vikings are giving up 4.1 yards per rush.  Both backs have the ability to stretch the line of scrimmage and avoid the WilliamsWall all together, but without much of a passing threat to speak of, the Vikings linebackers should be able to sit tight in their assignments and make sure to shut down all of the lanes… if, and it’s a big if, they are efficient tacklers.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Jasper Brinkley showed a few flashes last week in his first start at middle linebacker, but overall his day was quite pedestrian, which is acceptable against such a dominating runner like Cedric Benson.  He will face an even bigger test this week as he goes up against Willliams and Stewart.  Come Monday morning, we will now more about what exactly we have at middle linebacker and whether or not Brinkley has what it takes to hold down the fort during a playoff run against playoff caliber rushing attacks.

SPECIAL TEAMS (Advantage:  Vikings)

Luckily, with the emergence of Darius Reynaud as a capable return man, the success of the special teams does not hinge on his availability.  Also, despite one of the best special teams performances of his career last week, the Vikings have considerable depth at linebacker and the suspension of Erin Henderson should not be a deal breaker either.

Ryan Longwell is having a great year, and has hit all but one of his field goals this year (22 of 23).  The same cannot be said for Panthers kicker John Kasay who has struggled (17 of 22) and has only completed one attempt of four tries from 50 yards plus.  If the game comes down to a field goal, then these numbers still give me faith that the Vikings will prevail.

Punters Chris Kluwe and Jason Baker are having nearly identical seasons thus far. 

Darius Renaud has managed to maintain a very impressive punt return average of 11.2 yards, while the Panthers are giving up 10.9 yards per punt return, and have been burned for one touchdown.  Meanwhile, Panthers punt return Captain Munnerlyn (best… name… ever) is averaging a very solid 10.6 yards per return.  He will face a Vikings coverage unit that is giving 9.1 yards per return and has been burned for a touchdown as well.

A big question will be whether the Vikings will have Percy Harvin available to return kicks on Sunday, as he averages 29 yards per kick return and was well on his way to the Pro Bowl before being sidelined by migraines.  The Panthers kick coverage has been not great, as they average 28 yards given up per kick and have allowed a touchdown.  Darius Reynaud has not been much of a drop off from Harvin as he averages 27 yards per kick return.

The Panthers have struggled finding a kick returner, and nine different returners have a running average of only 19.9 yards per kick return.  The Vikings have given up only 22.2 yards per kick return.  This is a nasty combination, and gives the Vikings offense even more motivation to score… because the field position is likely to be great after the kickoff.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  I’ve been preaching for weeks now about how great of a job Darius Reynaud has been doing on special teams, but apparently Percy Harvin had to step aside for Reyanud to be noticed by the “real media.”  Reynaud has been very explosive on special teams (tell me again why Greg Lewis replaces Harvin in the slot on offense?) and could be poised for a big day against the Panthers.  It is impossible to calculate, but I would love to know how many Vikings touchdowns would have been field goals this year had it not been for Reynaud’s uncanny ability to scrounge out yards and get great field position.

CONCLUSION

Last week, my faith was rattled and I had to eat a boat load of crow for picking the Bengals to beat the Vikings.  While this Panther team still has potential and poses some threats, I am unwavering in my prediction that the Vikings will beat up on them in a way that will make people shut their TV off early and go to bed.

What better time to make a statement?  Prime time exposure.  Facing a somewhat decent team.  With the ability to clinch the Division and possibly the #2 seed.  The Vikings can’t get lazy thinking the regular season is over, instead they have to go out and make a statement that when the playoffs do roll around… they’re ready to bring the pain.

PREDICTION

34 – 10, Vikings


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19 Responses to “Previewing The Panthers”

  1. bigjohnny84 says:

    Cant really argue any of Adams analysis. But I think the score will be a little closer, not much though 31 – !7 Vikes. We are playing on the road.

  2. B. Grant says:

    Beware the Panthers, my friends… This is a team that won at Arizona, only lost by 10 AT New Orleans, and beat the Falcons at home. They have played some poor games as well, and have a slew of injuries to address, but the hype of a nationally televised home game against a team they are not expected to beat is a dangerous combination.

    We have to instill our will on the ground, because their pass defense coupled with another week without Percy will most likely not allow this game to be saved through the air. And we must not commit a bunch of senseless penalites (don’t get me started!) in a hyped up road game. If we come ready to play, we win 23-10, but if we snooze, we could be in trouble.

  3. bigjohnny84 says:

    Coach, I think the D will score this week. With all their injuries and half-assed QB, bound to be a mistake or two there somewhere.

  4. Lost Viking says:

    You think the Viking have a problem with Percy.

    You’ve probably heard there’s been outbreak of Swine Flu with the Ram this week. Apparently, the only members of the Ram who haven’t been affected are the receivers. They haven’t caught anything all season.

    • B. Grant says:

      Nice one Lost. I thought I heard a drum rimshot in the background when I read that last sentence. Was that on Letterman last night?

      How do you keep a Detroit Lion player off your property? Paint a goal line on your driveway.

  5. Lost Viking says:

    Still enjoy the old jokes. Speaking of which here’s this weeks’ Handle.

    Bear @ Raven
    Line: Baltimore by 10
    Bear are playing like what they are alleged to do in the woods. That said, not willing to trust this Baltimore offence to clobber an opponent for the second straight week. Raven still have several key guys on sidelines.
    TAKING: Chicago +10

    Viking @ Panther
    Line: Minnesota by 9
    Panther have covered five of past seven despite limited production from quarterback position. Minnesota is much more intimidating on its own turf and this will be only its second road game in past seven weeks.
    TAKING: Carolina +9

  6. Fozz44 says:

    I’m looking for a big win by the Vikes….35-13.
    Peterson and Taylor have had lightened workloads all year…and it will pay off Sunday as the Vikes need to impose their will on a spotty Panther run defense.
    With Matt Moore at qb, the front four will be pinning their ears back in passing situations. A healthy Winfield locks up Steve Smith, and their recievers are weak after that.
    Jasper Brinkley gets a big opportunity to shine with Moore in there…as well as whoever starts between Sanford and Johnson. (I’m in favor of Sanford, but if it’s Johnson at least he know JS is breathing down his neck for the starter slot)
    This is an opportunity for the Vikes to make a statement that they are a team to be reckoned with…as the Saints and Colts are still winning but showing flaws as well. I’m hoping they are ready to make that statement…with AP leading the charge with 150+ on the ground.(and I agree w/ Johnny…..the D should find the endzone this week)

  7. bigjohnny84 says:

    Hey Fozz44 good to see ya here. I have an old friend nicknamed Fozz, that’s a big Vikes fan, wondering if this is you?

    • Fozz44 says:

      It is indeed Johnny….Hayden told me about the site. I’ve been looking for something like this for years..glad to have found it.
      I’ll be in the ‘burg the weekend of the 8th….let’s try to get a beer (or 5) in.

      • bigjohnny84 says:

        Sounds great Fozz. You mean Jan. 8th? I knew that was too much coincidence for that not to be you. Is the #44 in honor of Chuck Foreman?

      • Fozz44 says:

        Yep, January.

        After all these years, I’m still a big Chuck fan. A buddy of mine got me an autographed, framed pic of Chuck last month….he had no idea he was my favorite player. Best gift I’ve received in years.
        It’s nice to see all those highlights from the 70’s on youtube these days.

      • bigjohnny84 says:

        I actually met Chuck at training camp this year. He was eating at the same restaurant we were so I went over to his table and shook his hand.

  8. Fran the Man says:

    I sure hope Harvin can suit up. Not just because he’s a very good player and we need him but also missing these two games could very well cost him a Pro Bowl berth and Rookie of the Year. He richly deserves both and I’d hate to see him miss out.

    Just looking at how we match up (Good job, by the way Adam) we should dominate this team.

    Vikings 42
    Cats 17

    Hey Coach, good to see you posting here, sure hope that A**hole “Master of Ceremonies” doesn’t follow you over from the AV. Man is that guy a dickwad or what?

    Can I say dickwad here Adam?

    • B. Grant says:

      I’m not sure that is an actual person, Fran. I have decided to treat it as a virus – if you see it, don’t open it.

      I wanna agree with you guys who see a blowout coming, and I see why you say that. Still…, this Panther team has played some very good football. While New England is not the team they once were, Carolina gave ’em all they wanted last week on the road. Call it “a coach’s caution” I guess.

  9. Fran the Man says:

    Just in, looks like Harvin returned to practice today;

    http://www.twincities.com/vikings/ci_14025943

  10. CO Vike Fan says:

    Look for vikes to make a statement on the road after the debacle in the desert. Lots of Adrian, Chester, and Jared.

    This will be one of those games that doesn’t feel like much is happening but we end up winning by 14 or more.

  11. Dave Lyons says:

    Look for a lot of Purple Jesus. We’d be stupid to do anything else.
    https://jgoodsonline.3dcartstores.com/Purple-Jesus-Tee_p_36.html

  12. Fozz44 says:

    chilly should have read this thread before he drew up the game plan

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