The key Carolina Panthers matchups to watch at the Vikings in Week 12.
Another big test awaits the Carolina Panthers in their final game before a well-deserved bye in Week 13. It’s been a campaign of twists and turns during the first year of head coach Matt Rhule’s rebuild, but there were definite signs of life in their impressive 20-0 shutout victory over the Detroit Lions last weekend.
Going to the Minnesota Vikings wouldn’t be the easiest of tasks in normal circumstances, but COVID-19 restrictions have negated a home crowd advantage that is really beneficial for them inside U.S. Bank Stadium. Whether the Carolina Panthers can take advantage of this is another matter entirely and building on a momentum-generating win last time out is imperative to their chances.
Despite losing some prominent veterans during free agency, the Vikings still boast plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Mike Zimmer turned things around a dismal 1-5 start to rack up three straight wins after their bye, which came crashing to a halt thanks to a home loss against the Dallas Cowboys that put a significant dent in their playoff hopes.
Let’s take a look at some of the key matchups to watch as the Panthers look for another notable scalp in Week 12.
Matchup No. 1
Teddy Bridgewater vs. Harrison Smith
Nobody will have more pressure on his shoulders going into this game than Teddy Bridgewater, who is making his triumphant return to play his old team on the road. This represents a career coming full circle after almost losing his leg during a freak training camp injury with the Vikings back in 2016.
Bridgewater will be all-too-aware of some of the big threats posed by Minnesota’s defense. In particular, the impact Harrison Smith can make if the quarterback doesn’t spot him at all times.
The All-Pro safety continues to make his presence felt on the backend, in run support, or whenever head coach Mike Zimmer calls his name on blitz packages. This represents a significant problem for Bridgewater and one he must overcome in his first game back since suffering an MCL sprain that kept him out last weekend.