Minnesota (2-0) at Carolina (1-1)
When: Sunday, September 25th 2016
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Time: 1:00 ET | TV: FOX
The undefeated Minnesota Vikings will battle the Carolina Panthers without two very key players this Sunday in Charlotte. Star running back Adrian Peterson will miss three-to-four months after needing surgery to repair a torn meniscus and tackle Matt Kalil was placed on injured reserve, further depleting a Vikings offense that already lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. The quarterback position seems to be in good hands however, as Sam Bradford stepped in last week and helped the Vikings defeat the Green Bay Packers 17-14. Stefon Diggs has 285 receiving yards which ranks second-most through two games in Vikings history, trailing only Gene Washington’s 324 in 1969. The rushing attack will now fall on the hands of Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata. The Vikings might have to lean even more on a defense that has forced three turnovers in each of the first two games and kept both opponents well under 100 yards rushing.
Carolina had some trouble putting away San Francisco in last week’s 46-27 victory, as the Panthers committed four turnovers to keep the 49ers in it until the end. The Panthers amassed 529 yards of total offense and are now ranked first in the NFL in points scored and third in overall offense. Running back Jonathan Stewart is sidelined by a hamstring injury, meaning Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne will pick up the slack for the league’s leading rushing attack (166.5 yards a game). Cam Newton came through with four touchdown passes last week and has accounted for 20 touchdowns (17 passing, three rushing) in his last five home games. The defense is ranked seventh in total defense, but 20th in scoring thanks mainly to getting poor field position resulting from turnovers. There was some speculation as to whether the game would be played in Charlotte in light of violent protests in the city that erupted on Tuesday night, but the NFL announced it plans to go forward with the game.
I believe the Vikings will be able to slow down this Panthers offense and control the ball with smart conservative play-calling. Remember, Peterson was doing nothing in the first two games and the Vikings won. The rushing attack can’t get worse. Bradford looks like he belongs so far in Minnesota. Seven points is a lot against a good defense.
Pick: Vikings +7