When it comes to our beloved Carolina Panthers we know what to expect, generally speaking. We aren’t surprised when Luke Kuechly comes up with a big play or Cam Newton produces a highlight out of a video game because we are familiar with the Panthers. But what about the Minnesota Vikings? What can the Panthers expect to see on Sunday at Mall of America Field aka the Metrodome?
As a resident of Minnesota, the Vikings are the second team I’m most familiar with outside of the Panthers of course. Much of the talk this week in Minnesota has had little to do with the Panthers, which is understandable considering this isn’t close to a rivalry and Carolina carries a 1-3 record. Not exactly a marquee matchup to get the locals excited.
The focus instead has been on the newly acquired Josh Freeman and the quarterback controversy the Vikings are dealing with. Just when you would expect the focus to turn to the game to be played news broke out about Adrian Peterson and the tragedy that has taken place in his life. It’s an awful, disgusting situation that I won’t get into here but it truly is tragic. A large focus of the game is going to be on how AP comes out and plays, but here is what else you need to know about the Panthers’ opponent.
Look at the Vikings’ defense and you will see a unit that has struggled immensely this season. The lowest point total they’ve allowed this year was in their win against Pittsburgh. They allowed 27 points. TWENTY-SEVEN POINTS! Minnesota also got torched by Brian Hoyer to a tune of 321 yards.
The key is going to be giving Cam Newton enough time to find his receivers. As good as Jared Allen is this unit isn’t going to be bringing the heat that Arizona brought last week. Minnesota is shaky in the secondary outside of Harrison Smith; this is a big opportunity for Carolina to get its offense back on track.
Better than advertised receiving corps
When you think of the Vikings you don’t think of their pass catchers. But don’t let that make you think this team doesn’t have anybody that can expose the Panthers. The lack of success Minnesota has had the past two years at the receiver position can in part be chalked up to Christian Ponder’s ineffectiveness.
Matt Cassel isn’t anything special, but he’s capable of being a competent quarterback. Against the Steelers both Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson had good games. Simpson is most famous for doing a flip into the end zone for a touchdown, but he’s quietly putting together a nice season. He’s more than capable of making a circus catch downfield and stretching a defense.
The sleeper of this receiving corps is the uber talented Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson is dynamic and has the tools to be a difference maker. For some odd reason the Vikings have limited the rookie’s playing time to a point where he hasn’t been given a chance to shine in the passing game. Sooner or later he’s going to have a breakout game; here’s hoping it doesn’t come this week.
Strong home-field advantage
One thing you can count on regardless of Minnesota’s record is the fans coming out and making the dome loud. I’ve seen these two teams play twice at the dome before and each time the Vikings weren’t good, but the place was still rocking. It’s going to be especially loud tomorrow with Minnesota trying to salvage its season.
There is an odd sense of optimism around this team with Cassel starting and it will be the first time the fans won’t be forced into watching Ponder under center this season at home. There are a lot of question marks surrounding this Vikings team, but when it comes to the home-field advantage they possess there is no questioning they have a leg up on most teams.
Frazier on the hot seat
It may be puzzling as to why a coach would be on the hot seat after making the playoffs with a second-year quarterback at the helm, but Leslie Frazier finds himself on it. It’s not anywhere near as hot as Ron Rivera’s, yet a poor finish to the season could cause general manager Rick Spielman to look elsewhere. Former quarterback Shaun King said on a Tampa Bay radio station that Frazier didn’t want to bring in Josh Freeman, but was ultimately overruled by Spielman.
That sort of disconnect when it comes to the quarterback position isn’t what you want to have. It’ll be tough for the Viking to get back into the playoff race, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Minnesota elect to start over with a new quarterback and coach heading into next season.
Tomorrow’s game will be played by two teams with more questions than answers in regards to their respective futures. One team is going to come away with hope that the season is still salvageable, even though it’s most likely false hope. The other can pretty much forgot about this season in terms of making any impact come January.