WEEK 14: Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers
Opponent Record: 8-4, second in NFC South
What to look out for:
Of course, the Carolina Panthers have a dynamic offensive unit led by Cam Newton, but the defense is the motor that keeps this team going. On the year, they rank as a top-five defense. Specifically, the Panthers ranked sixth in passing defense and third in rushing defense prior to a Week 13 loss to the New Orleans Saints. In other words, there are not many weaknesses in this defense.
Keys to victory:
The Vikings have to zone in on Christian McCaffrey. With Devin Funchess drawing a match up with Xavier Rhodes, McCaffrey presents the biggest challenge for Minnesota. For the year, the dual-threat running back boasts 284 rushing yards, along with 501 receiving yards on 64 catches for six total touchdowns. If linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr keep the rookie runner in check, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to shut down the Panthers offense and give the offense opportunities to score points.
Offensively, the Vikings may face their toughest test of the season, but ultimately, it should come down to who wins the battle up front. The Panthers have a fantastic front seven featuring middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive tackle Kawann Short, so the line will be counted on once again to come through. Fortunately, the new-look offensive has performed far beyond expectations. In fact, they may be the best line in the game right now. If the line can win another tough battle in the trenches, the Vikings are in good hands given the outstanding play of quarterback Case Keenum and running back Latavius Murray as of late.
Score Prediction: 14-10 Vikings
In reality, this game feels like another low-scoring affair, but if Keenum leads a couple of touchdown drives and takes care of the football, Minnesota should come away with the W.