|10:00 AM PT11:00 AM MT12:00 PM CT1:00 PM ET18:00 GMT2:00 11:00 AM MST1:00 PM EST12:00 PM CT22:00 UAE13:00 ETNaN:� , December 10, 2017|
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina Weather: 41°, Clear Attendance: 73,728
Vikings, Panthers focus on each other, not standings
Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
- The Vikings earned their eighth straight win with a stifling defensive effort at Atlanta, downing the Falcons by a 14-9 score. Minnesota held Matt Ryan and Co. to season lows of 275 yards, 15 first downs and 173 passing yards, yielding only three field goals and a single third-down conversion in 10 tries. Case Keenum completed 83.3 percent of his passes (25-for-30) and threw a pair of short TD passes, including a game-winning six-yarder to Kyle Rudolph on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Keenum went 13-for-13 in the second half, including 6-for-6 on the decisive drive.
- The Vikings lead the all-time series, 8-5, and have won the last two meetings (2014 and '16) by a combined 53-23 score, thanks largely to three special teams touchdowns. The teams have squared off in Carolina only four times previously, with each squad winning twice.
- In his last two games against the Vikings, Cam Newton had a 56.6 passer rating and was sacked 12 times. Newton has gone four straight games without an interception; he has had only one longer streak to date, a run of five consecutive interception-less games in 2012. Newton surpassed 500 rushing yards for the season in last week's loss; he has reached that figure in six different seasons, tied for the most all-time among quarterbacks (Randall Cunningham, Mike Vick).
- Minnesota and Carolina are two of the more run-oriented teams in the NFL. They are two of the four teams averaging better than 30.0 rushing attempts per contest; both rank in the league's top six in rushing yards per game, and both stand no lower than fourth in rushing yards allowed per contest.
- The Panthers lost to the Saints for a second time in 2017, dropping a 31-21 decision on the road on Sunday. The Saints rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns against a Carolina defense that had allowed only four rushing TDs all season coming in. Cam Newton passed for 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns and ran for a team-high 51 yards in a losing effort. The Panthers were hurt by a pair of special teams miscues -- a fumbled snap by punter Michael Palardy that led to a New Orleans touchdown, and a fumble by Kaelin Clay on a punt return that led to a field goal.
- Case Keenum completed his last 15 passes last week and has completed at least 70.0 percent in four consecutive games. Over that stretch, Keenum's 74.0 completion percentage leads all QBs with a minimum of 75 attempts. After winning a total of nine game over his first four seasons (9-15), Keenum looks for his ninth victory of the season on Sunday (currently 8-2).
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Minnesota Vikings are trending toward one of the top spots in the NFC, but the Carolina Panthers haven't given up on that thought either.
The teams meet Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium, insisting their focus is on each other and not the big picture with four games remaining in the regular season.
The Vikings (10-2) are contending for a spot that could result in home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"We've got four games left," Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said. "My only thoughts are on the Carolina Panthers and trying to get a win this week. All that stuff is nice to talk about, but for us we'll go about our business."
The Vikings are on the verge of wrapping up the outright NFC North title, needing just one more victory to do that.
The Panthers (8-4), who face a divisional leader for the second week in a row, missed their chance to move to the top of the NFC South standings with last week's loss at New Orleans. Still, they could rise to first place with a strong finishing stretch.
"There's still things in our future that can get us on the right track again," Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said.
But Panthers coach Ron Rivera isn't interested in discussing how his team stacks up in the standings.
"I think what's most significant is that we have to take one at a time and focus on the opponent," Rivera said. "It doesn't matter what happens anywhere else."
The Vikings are coming off a 14-9 road victory against the Atlanta Falcons, who are one of Carolina's NFC South rivals.
The combination of quarterback Case Keenum and receiver Adam Thielen has been one of the strongest in the NFL this season.
But Minnesota running back Latavius Murray, who has 75 or more rushing yards in each of the past three games, has turned into a consistent option.
"Running the ball is important for us, not just getting yards but play-action," Keenum said. "I think there has been good balance."
The Vikings will be counting on that type of mixture against a Carolina defense that's bound to be anxious to crank up the pressure.
"If they want to not rush, that would be great by me," Keenum said. "We're going to expect them to rush the passer. That's something we have to work on ... and be ready to get the ball out."
Rivera said he's wary of Minnesota's explosiveness, a concern that's probably heightened because the Panthers have been victims of big-yardage plays the past couple of weeks and they might be without linebacker Shaq Thompson (foot injury).
On offense, the Panthers will want to re-establish a ground attack. They've found that the most effective way to make headway overall on offense. That could be the key to cracking the Vikings.
"Our guys take a lot of pride in playing the run," Zimmer said. "They all take a lot of pride in it. It's important to try to make teams one-dimensional."
Newton said too many three-and-outs have hindered the offense and impacted the Panthers in general.
"We have to get our defense more rest time," Newton said.
Rivera said the Panthers are expecting a heavy dose of man coverages from the Minnesota defense.
Zimmer said the Vikings looked faster on special teams last week and that's an area that he has hoped would show strides. The Panthers had several mishaps with the special-teams units last week, so that's an area worth monitoring.
There are several connections between the Vikings and Panthers.
Look for some of the spotlight to fall on Carolina left tackle Matt Kalil, who was a Minnesota first-round draft pick in 2012. He left the Vikings during the past offseason to sign with the Panthers.
It hasn't always been smooth transition, but he drew praise this week.
"He's a guy who fights," Rivera said, noting there are often interesting elements emerging with a player faces his former team. "I think he's learning to develop into our system."
Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn spent the past three seasons with the Vikings before returning to the Panthers prior to this season.
Vikings right offensive tackle Mike Remmers started 42 consecutive games with Carolina before joining Minnesota for this season.
Those storylines aside, both teams understand the importance of the matchup.
The Panthers want to rid the taste of a defeat that might have seemed devastating but doesn't have to be the end-all.
"One game doesn't define you," Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly said.
The Vikings see the next few games as providing an avenue to better things.
"These December games are really going to be important as we continue to move forward," Zimmer said.
Updated December 6, 2017