5 pivotal matchups the Panthers must win vs. the Vikings in Week 6

(Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /
3 of 6
Carolina Panthers
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports) Adam Thielen /

Adam Theilen vs. Carolina Panthers CB2

All the talk is about second-year superstar Justin Jefferson, and that is well deserved after another dominant performance. However, like many teams in the past, the Carolina Panthers have proven that one player cannot win games and that is where Adam Theilen comes into focus.

While the former Pro Bowl receiver has suffered through some down years since the departure of his elite running mate Stefon Diggs, Theilen is still a dangerous and reliable weapon in the Vikings spread offense.

Theilen may have only hauled in two catches for 40 yards on the game in Week 5, but one of those catches came at the clutchest of moments on the final drive to help get into game-winning field goal range.

That is what No.19 means to this team. Jefferson may be the top target but Theilen is who they turn to when the game is on the line.

This is why the Panthers have to contain the small framed receiver, something the team has struggled with since the injury to Jaycee Horn. Because even if Jefferson is shut down for the entire game, if Theilen is able to get open he will make you pay all the same.

Unless the coverage is elite the clutch receiver will get open, it’s as simple as that. And when you add to that the fact that the safeties will be leaning heavily toward the explosive Jefferson, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Whether it’s C.J. Hendersen, A.J. Bouye or someone else, they need to step up and limit Theilen in the biggest of moments or one big catch could seal the Panthers’ fate come Sunday.

If the Panthers are able to contain Theilen, Kirk Cousins will have no choice but to force the ball to Jefferson even more and we’ve all seen how that ends up. Yes, that will put more pressure on Donte Jackson, but the LSU product has more than proven capable of answering that call.

That cobbled-together corner position has been boom or bust in the last couple of games and this will be a massive measuring stick for just what the Panthers have there. One that will likely play a large part in the outcome of the game.