Since 2008 the Vikings lead the last five match ups 3-2 over the Carolina Panthers. In those four of those five the winner has won by at least a touchdown or more. The only exception coming in Rivera and and Newton’s rookie seasons when Olindo Mare missed a 31 yard field goal with 29 seconds left to tie the game and likely send it to overtime.
The last time the Carolina Panthers saw the Vikings was in 2014 coming off a bye week and a five game losing skid. On the back of two blocked Brad Nortman punts returned for touchdowns in the first half, the Vikings would run away with a 31-13 victory.
Since that loss to Minnesota in 2014, the Panthers have lost only two regular season games and averaged right at 31 points per game. Carolina will look to extend the NFL’s current league-leading home win streak to 12-0 and have averaged 40.6 points in their last five match ups at Bank of America stadium. Minnesota comes in for this match up with a 2-0 mark, despite several injuries.
CAROLINA PANTHERS RUSHING OFFENSE VS VIKING RUSH DEFENSE
Carolina’s offense comes into week three ranked number one averaging 166.5 yards per game. They got a lot of help after Jonathan Stewart went out when Fozzy Whitaker ran for 100 yards on 16 carries. Followed by Cam Newton with 37 yards on 6 carries.
Second year running back Cameron Artis-Payne has been announced as the starter at running back with Jonathan Stewart out despite Whitaker’s big day against San Francisco. This could easily change depending on what Mike Shula decides to come out in for the first play personnel wise. Despite starting, chances are Artis-Payne and Whitaker will split the work load overall.
Last season Artis-Payne totaled 183 yards on 45 carries for a 4.1 YPC average with one touchdown in seven appearances. Most coming when Stewart was injured in the last few games of the season. Whitaker totaled 108 yards on 25 carries last season for a 4.3 YPC average himself. The edge may go to CAP here on snap counts due to his pass blocking and blitz pick up in the back field
The Vikings defense could pose a task for the triple headed rushing attack of the Panthers. Minnesota has only allowed 73.5 YPG through the first two weeks, good for 6th in the NFL. Vikings havea top run stopper in Linval Joseph (Former East Carolina Pirate) who also has two sacks on the season already. He lines up alongside Everson Griffen, Shariff Floyd, and Anthony Barr.
PREDICTION- The sledding will be a little tougher for the Panthers run game in this one. The biggest thing will be Artis-Payne and Whitaker not fumbling and turning the ball over and giving a beat up Vikings offense good field psotion. Panthers break 100 yards between Fozzy, CAP, and Cam, but expect the overall average to drop going into next week.
STEFON DIGGS IS THE VIKINGS OFFENSE
The main objective in this game for the Panthers defense should be to take out Stefon Diggs out of the picture as much as possible. Bradford found Diggs nine times for 182 yards and a touchdown against the Packers. He was the entire offense for the Vikings who totaled only 283 yards the whole game. He finished with a 1.1 higher grade than Kelvin Benjamin by Pro Football Focus last week.
Carolina has held up pretty well in the secondary so far despite the young moves at corner back, currently seventh in the NFL in passing defense at 198 YPG. Rookie corner James Bradberry got his first interception of the season last week and even finished ranked ahead of recently released All-Pro corner Josh Norman by Pro Football Focus.
“Ironically, the only cornerback to outperform Josh Norman this week was the rookie tasked with filling his shoes in Carolina. Going up against the 49ers receivers will help, but Bradberry allowed just one catch on seven targets, and it went for only six yards. He notched a pick and a pass defensed, and when targeted yielded a passer rating of 0.0.”- Pro Football Focus
Adrian Peterson went out against the Packers and the Vikings too will be without their starting rusher. That leaves McKinnon and Asiata to lead a rushing attack that ranks last in the NFL at 1.9 yards per carry.
The Panthers defense currently ranks 16th allowing 106.5 yards per contest. They allowed only 65 yards on 26 total carries between three rushers against the 49ers last week, getting them back on track after allowing 148 yards to the Broncos week one.
PREDICTION- The Panthers defense is sitting at seventh overall. The Packers were able to get four sacks on Sam Bradford last week, which should have Panthers defensive ends Charles Johnson and Kony Ealy drooling with not having a sack on the season yet. With Matt Kalil out on the offensive line, it should only help.
Panthers hold the Vikings to 250 yards of total offense, 50 yards or less rushing.
Kelvin Benjamin could be a big asset once again this week. The Panthers rank third in total offense with 431 YPG and the Vikings have the fifth ranked defense allowing just 289.5 YPG. That includes holding Aaron Rodgers to just 213 yards through the air last week.
In a game where both teams are missing their starting rushers, facing tough rushing defenses, Greg Olsen could very well be the difference maker for the Panthers. With Kelvin Benjamin off to a big start during the first two weeks of the season, the Vikings will already have their hands full. Minnesota hasn’t forgot about Olsen by any means, but they haven’t faced a true tight end threat yet this season either.
Olsen’s long touchdown last week came on a route where he absolutely broke a defender with a fake step towards the outside before continuing up the seam and breaking free.
PREDICTION- Olsen is at 195 yards through two games and Benjamin at 199. With more attention likely towards KB this week, Cam should be able to find his career safety blanket for a few big plays. Olsen breaks 100 yards while Benjamin hangs about 80, both with a touchdown.
This game has all the makings for a tough defensive match and I believe it could be just that for the majority of the first half. But history says the victor in these match ups normally wins by a touchdown, typically more. With the Panthers offense at home and average 40.6 in the last five games at the Bank, I’m taking a reversal of the 2014 game. 31-13 Panthers.
As long as the Panthers don’t have any key turnovers giving the Vikings key field position, the Minnesota offense shouldn’t have a lot of success. However, this is the NFL and anything can happen, but I think we see the food trucks at the stadium again in week four.
“Can we get another Shrimp Po’ Boy?!”