- Anthony Tornatore
Vikings Look to Get Back in the Winning Column, Host Panthers
The Minnesota Vikings will look to get back to their winning ways as they host the Carolina Panthers in a pivotal week 12 matchup.
The Vikings were on a roll heading into their week 11 matchup last week against the Dallas Cowboys. They were on a three-game winning streak and everything was clicking for them on all cylinders. They were even facing a team that had two wins and was using their backup quarterback. However, like most of 2020, anything and everything can happen. They wound up being defeated 31-28 to dropped to 4-6 on the year.
Like every week until the end of the season, the Vikings must win each game to secure a Wild Card spot in the playoffs, as it looks like the Green Bay Packers will run away with the division.
Their opponent this week, the Carolina Panthers, will look to continue their winning ways, as former Minnesota Viking Teddy Bridgewater makes his return to Minneapolis. The Panthers are in third place in the NFC South behind the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two teams poised to be in the playoffs when it's all said and done. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they will be without Pro Bowl running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey has missed multiple games this year with multiple injuries after having an MVP caliber season just one year ago.
The running back on the other side of the field, Dalvin Cook, has been on a tear this year and is in the conversation for MVP honors for the 2020-2021 campaign. He is ten yards behind Derrick Henry for the lead league in rushing yards with 1,069, and has seen 28 less carries. He leads all running backs with 13 rushing touchdowns on the year and leads all of the NFL with 14 touchdowns all together.
Besides the play of Dalvin Cook, Kirk Cousins has also found himself in a groove these past four games, throwing for nine touchdowns and only one interception. Before that stretch, he had thrown 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Cousins has certainly been connecting with both Adam Thielen, who leads the league with 11 receiving touchdowns, and Justin Jefferson, who leads all rookies with 848 receiving yards and is tied for second in the NFL with 18.8 yards per catch. The offense has been extremely consistent and doesn't seem to be the issue for this Minnesota team this year.
The Panthers, who will see the return of Teddy Bridgewater after a one game hiatus, has been the main focal point on the offense so far for this Carolina team this season. He has been extremely consistent, completing 72.1% of his passes, with 13 of those connecting for touchdowns. He also has three rushing touchdowns on the year with an average of 5.6 yards per carry. His two main targets, Robby Anderson and DJ Moore, both have had solid seasons as well, hauling in 71 and 46 balls respectively.
This can be an easy game for the Vikings to win, however, it will all come down to their play on Special Teams. The Vikings Special Teams has been utterly disgusting to watch as of late. Dan Bailey, who has connected on 80% of his field goals this year, has only attempted 10 on the entire season, and only one in his last five games. The Vikings have been either feast or famine inside the red zone this year. Their main issue has been punting this year, on both sides of the ball. From a kicking standpoint, they are dead last in net yards average with 33.9 yards and are second to last in average yards per punt with 33.9. On the returning side, they have only returned seven punts for a total of 13 yards. That's an average of 1.9 yards per punt return. Hopefully the Vikings can get back into the swing of things on Special Teams this week.
This is a must win for both teams as they both sit in third place in both of their standings in the NFC. Ultimately, it could come down to both of these teams fighting for the last Wild Card spot in the NFC in which one of these teams could go home, while the other plays in the first round of the playoffs.
This Sunday's game will kick off at 12:00 pm CST/1:00pm EST with the game being televised nationally on FOX with Kenny Albert and Jonathan Vilma on the call. Paul Allen and Pete Bercich KFAN 100.3-FM/KTLK 1130-AM in Minneapolis / St. Paul.