The Vikings are facing their first test since the bye week and Daniel House profiles all the numbers you need to know before the Vikings take on the Panthers tomorrow afternoon.The Vikings are fresh off a bye week and are looking to embark on the next quarter of the 2013 season. The team has faced adversity en route to a 1-3 start, making this game very important to the outlook of the 2013 campaign. They are looking to build upon a win in London, which provided many positives to this team. The bye week was crazy as the Vikings decided to sign quarterback Josh Freeman, signaling the team's insecurity with Christian Ponder. Matt Cassel was very productive in the Vikings win against the Steelers and the team has announced he will get the start versus the Panthers tomorrow. The roster has had time to recover from injuries that occurred before the bye week, which may help many of the weaknesses among the Vikings defense. The Panthers enter this game with a 1-3 record as well and will be facing a must win situation at Mall of America Field on Sunday. The Vikings will need to handle the read-option with Cam Newton and matchup against a Panthers defense that is the best in total yards allowed (1,306) and are second best with a 14.5 points per game average. The Vikings will be facing a challenge tomorrow against a quietly talented Carolina Panthers team. How do we handle the Panthers and win a much needed ball game this week?
Television: FOX (Channel 9 in Minneapolis)
Play-by-Play: Sam Rosen Analyst: Brian Billick
Sideline Reporter: Laura Okmin
KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporter: Greg Coleman/Ben Leber
Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman -10:00 a.m. CT
The Vikings have won 3 of their last 4 meetings against the Panthers. The Vikings and Panthers have played one overtime game, a 16-13 Vikings victory in 2006. This will be the 2nd regular season head-to-head meeting between Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera, former teammates on the Chicago Bears. The Vikings and Panthers have never met in the postseason. The Vikings were the first franchise to hand the Panthers back-to-back road losses with the Vikings victories in 1996 and 1997. A win would provide the Vikings with their third consecutive win versus the Panthers at Mall of America Field.
The Primary Focus:
The Vikings signed Josh Freeman this week, but he needs to get up to speed with the offense. Although Christian Ponder was cleared to play following his rib fracture, the team has decided to continue with Matt Cassel as the starter. Cassel was very effective versus the Steelers and completed 16 of 25 passes and was a perfect 10 for 10 in the 4th quarter. His 64% completion rate is something Christian Ponder has done just 9 times in 29 career starts. It is critical for Cassel to continue his ability to hit receivers in stride and not create turnovers. This opens doors for Adrian Peterson to do what he does best each and every week. Peterson is questionable for tomorrow's game after the death of his 2-year old son, after he who was assaulted in South Dakota. All indications point to Peterson playing on Sunday, but given the nature of this death, he may miss this game. If he does, Toby Gerhart will need to fill his shoes and create plays with his legs, to help offset the passing game. The Vikings offensive line will need to continue to play well, much like they did in London versus the Steelers. If they can provide Cassel with adequate time, he is great at making decisions. This will be a tough task, considering Panthers defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy each have three sacks so far this season. The team has corralled 12 sacks this season and has developed a very stout front seven. If the Vikings offensive line struggles, Cassel could have a long day, which may lead to Josh Freeman's debut coming sooner rather than later.
On the Defensive:
The Vikings defense has let this team down and the secondary has been beaten to shreds this season. Despite being near the top of the league in takeaways (12), they have allowed a fourth worst 324 passing yards per game, along with 123 points this year. Josh Robinson has been destroyed, but A.J. Jefferson and Chris Cook are said to be healthy and ready for action this week, which should help the situation. The Panthers offensive line has awarded a seventh worst 15 sacks and will be without starting left guard Amini Silatolu for the season with a knee injury. The Vikings defensive line is fourth in takeaways with twelve and is fresh off a five sack performance against the Steelers. The Panthers offense is currently the third worst passing team in the league and Cam Newton has nearly thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns, which benefits the Vikings defense. The Vikings defensive line has recorded just nine sacks this season and the task will be huge to keep Cam Newton confined to the pocket, if the Vikings expect to win on Sunday. Newton has averaged just 221 passing yards this season and the Vikings have allowed 326 yards per game, which means something has got to give for one of this teams. This defense needs to carry the team, especially if the Vikings offense continues to play well and scores adequate points. One thing is certain, the front seven and secondary will need to provide this team with a big lift tomorrow.
Special Teams Primer:
Blair Walsh is questionable with an injury to his plant leg, which could effect the Vikings kicking game. If Walsh has issues with his leg, punter Jeff Locke will assume the place kicking duties. This game could be close and it may come down to the leg of a kicker. Locke needs to punt well tomorrow and if he can get some net yardage, it would be a huge help to the Vikings defense. Furthermore, the Vikings coverage units need to play well and can't allow fake field goals and punts like they did in the last home matchup with the Browns.
Injury Report: (via NFL.com)
|Name||Position||Injury||Practice Status||Game Status|
|Quintin Mikell||S||Ankle||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Dwan Edwards||DT||Hamstring||Did Not Participate In Practice||Doubtful|
|Greg Olsen||TE||Foot||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Kenjon Barner||RB||Foot||Did Not Participate In Practice||Doubtful|
|Robert Lester||S||Hamstring||Did Not Participate In Practice||Doubtful|
|D.J. Moore||CB||Knee||Out (Definitely Will Not Play)||Out|
|Colin Cole||DT||Shoulder||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Rhett Ellison||TE||Knee||Limited Participation in Practice||Questionable|
|Adrian Peterson||RB||Not Injury Related||Did Not Participate In Practice||Probable|
|Christian Ponder||QB||Rib||Limited Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Blair Walsh||K||left Hamstring||Did Not Participate In Practice||Questionable|
|Joe Webb||WR||Illness||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Chris Cook||CB||Groin||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Kevin Williams||DT||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Jamarca Sanford||S||Hamstring||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
With the bye week occurring last week, all of these players are expected to play, barring a major setback in warmups. The Panthers will be without D.J. Moore in the secondary and safety Quinton Mikell will be a game time decision after suffering an ankle injury that held him out last week.
Final Keys to Victory:
As I discussed earlier, Matt Cassel needs to play as well as he did last week, the offensive line needs to protect him adequately, and the secondary needs to evolve through a more consistent pass rush. The Vikings need to win this game in order to keep pace in the NFC North and in the conference standings. If all of these keys can be executed, the Vikings will corral the Panthers and begin a winning streak as their next five games are against opponents all .500 or under. This team will face many critical tests over the second half of this season and if they can handle the obstacles they were presented with during the first four games, this team can make a run to the playoffs this season.