By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings entered their Week 6 game against the Carolina Panthers at Mall of America Field fresh off their bye.
The Vikings (1-3) last played in Wembley Stadium in London against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4.
The Panthers have just one win in their first four games of the season. Carolina lost to the Arizona Cardinals 22-6 in the desert after having their bye in Week 4.
The Panthers lone win came against the winless New York Giants in Charlotte, NC in Week 3. They have lost their only two home games; Week 2 to the Buffalo Bills as well as the Cardinals in Week 4.
Panthers on Offense
The Panthers offense has struggled. They have the 24th ranked total offense with 329 yards per game (21.5 less yards per game than the Vikings), 30th tanked passing offense with 192 yards per game (31.8 less) and 26th ranked scoring offense with 18.5 points per game (10.3 less).
The bright spot for the Panthers is their rushing offense, which ranks seventh in the NFL with 137 yards per game (10.2 more than the Vikings).
The run game may have taken a hit last week when starting left guard Amini Silatolu was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He suffered the injury during the third quarter of last week’s game and was replaced in the lineup by Travelle Wharton.
Panthers on Defense
As bad as the Panthers offense has been, the defense has been just as good. The Panthers rank third in total yards with 301.5 allowed per game (129.3 less than the Vikings), ninth in passing defense with 209.3 yards per game (116.7 less), tied for seventh in run defense with 92.3 yards per game (12.5 less) and third in scoring defense 14.5 points per game (16.3 less).
The Panthers strength is up front. Rookies Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short – first and second round draft picks in April, respectively – are combining with Dwan Edwards and Colin Cole to form one of the best defensive tackle groups in the league. Throw in star pass rushers Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy and the Panthers have the best defensive line in the league.
Panthers Players to Watch
Quarterback Cam Newton: The 6-foot-5, 245-pound third-year quarterback is a dual threat passer. He has the athleticism to elude defenders and the size to run them over. He has been inconsistent through his first 36 games as the Panthers starter and he can pick apart a defense if given time. However, when under pressure, he has a tendency to turn the ball over.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly: The 6-foot-3, 235-pound second-year middle linebacker is a tackling machine. He has amassed over 200 tackles in 20 games as a starter for the Panthers.
The Vikings open as slight favorites. The statistics favor the Panthers, but the Vikings have played a tougher schedule. The two teams have not played very well and the winner will be determined by turnovers. The offense that starts in better field position will score more points.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.