Vikings expected to bring pressure vs. Panthers QB Darnold
MINNESOTA (2-3) at CAROLINA (3-2)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, Fox
OPENING LINE: Vikings by 1, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Vikings 2-3, Panthers 3-2.
SERIES RECORD: Vikings lead 9-6.
LAST MEETING: Vikings beat Panthers 28-27 on Nov. 29, 2020 at Minnesota.
VIKINGS OFFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (15), PASS (10), SCORING (t-19).
VIKINGS DEFENSE: OVERALL (17), RUSH (22), PASS (13), SCORING (9).
PANTHERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (16), RUSH (18), PASS (13), SCORING (t-16).
PANTHERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (2), RUSH (8), PASS (1), SCORING (3).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Vikings 0; Panthers minus-2.
VIKINGS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Justin Jefferson. The second-year wideout is proving his rookie season was no fluke, turning in big numbers again this year. Jefferson has 28 receptions for 391 yards and three touchdowns in his last four games, presenting a formidable challenge for Carolina cornerbacks Donte Jackson and C.J. Henderson. Jefferson had seven catches for 70 yards and two TDs last year against the Panthers.
PANTHERS PLAYER TO WATCH: Panthers LB Haason Reddick. The edge rusher has been a force for Carolina with 6 1/2 sacks through five games. Reddick now has 14 sacks in his last nine games, dating back to his time in Arizona. He has been particularly effective at home this season with at least 1 1/2 sacks in each of Carolina’s three games.
KEY MATCHUP: Panthers offensive line vs. Vikings pass rush: Panthers QB Sam Darnold has been under heavy duress for most of the season and has been being sacked eight times and hit 19 times in the last two games. The Vikings present a major concern for Carolina as they have 17 sacks this season, second most in the NFL.
KEY INJURIES: Vikings RB Dalvin Cook is working his way back after missing last week’s game with a sprained ankle but the team has a bye next week and may look to hold him out again to be safe. DT Michael Pierce was inactive last week with an elbow injury and did not practice Wednesday. The Panthers are hoping to get Christian McCaffrey back from a hamstring injury, which would be a tremendous boost for the offense. Left tackle Cam Erving is expected to play after missing last week’s game with a neck injury, which means Taylor Moton will move back to his more natural right tackle position. Linebacker Shaq Thompson (foot) is out again.
SERIES NOTES: The Vikings have won three of the last four games, including last year’s 28-27 victory in Minnesota in which they outscored Carolina 18-8 in the fourth quarter. While the Vikings are 9-6 overall against the Panthers, Carolina is 3-2 at home. The series has produced some memorable moments, including Vikings QB Brad Johnson throwing a touchdown pass to himself (off a batted pass) in 1997, and Panthers WR Steve Smith returning the season-opening kickoff for a touchdown the first time he ever touched the ball as a rookie in the 2001. The Panthers won that game 24-13 but would go on to lose 15 straight, ending coach George Seifert’s tenure in Carolina.
STATS AND STUFF: The Vikings are 0-2 on the road this season. ... DE Everson Griffen has four sacks in the last three games. Over his last three matchups against the Panthers while with the Vikings, in 2014, 2016 and 2017, Griffen had six sacks. ... Griffen (four) and DE Danielle Hunter (six) are one of two tandems in the league with four-plus sacks apiece. Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn are the other for the Bears. ... Vikings WR Justin Jefferson is the third player in team history with at least five catches in the first five games of the season. Current teammate Adam Thielen (2017, 2018) and Hall of Famer Cris Carter (1994, 1995, 1997) are the others. ... QB Kirk Cousins threw his 200th career TD pass last week. He’s the ninth active player in the league to reach that milestone. ... The Panthers are 2-1 at home. ... The Panthers have struggled in the third quarter this season, scoring an NFL-low seven points. ... Darnold has thrown five interceptions in the last two games and has six TDs passes and six INTs on the season. ... Darnold was limited to a passer rating of 34.4 after completing 17 of 42 passes with one touchdown and three interceptions in his last meeting with the Vikings as a member of the Jets.. ... The Panthers are 3-0 with McCaffrey in the starting lineup and 0-2 without him. McCaffrey has 2,820 scrimmage yards (148.4 per game) and 21 touchdowns in his past 19 home games. ... Rookie RB Chuba Hubbard had his first 100-yard rushing game last week in a 21-18 loss to the Eagles. ... The Panthers’ defense is first in the NFL on third downs, allowing opponents to convert just 25.4% of those opportunities into first downs.
FANTASY TIP: Cousins threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns last year against the Panthers.
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