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Week 6 Preview: Vikings vs Carolina Panthers
Needless to say, it's been an interesting couple of weeks around here. The last time we previewed a game, things felt pretty desperate. Not that things are entirely different, but 1-3 feels a lot better than 0-3 did. After 3 straight losses to start the season, the Vikings defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley Stadium under the help of backup QB Matt Cassel and headed off for their bye week. Never ones to remain quiet, the Vikings snatched up the recently released free agent Josh Freeman. Freeman is getting paid $2 million this year, so it's hard to imagine him not seeing the field this year. It won't happen this week, however. This week they'll play a Panthers team that comes into Mall of America Field also at 1-3. The Panthers are coming off a 22-6 drubbing at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. They were unable to get into the end zone in that game, but they do have some solid offensive weapons. Here's what we're looking for in today's game:
Cassel starts again
Matt Cassel stepped in for Christian Ponder, who was suffering from a fractured rib, and performed admirably in London. Leslie Frazier finally announced on Friday what pretty much everybody else was already assuming -- Cassel will get the start again this week after a solid performance that was turnover-free. Even though Ponder has been cleared to play by the medical staff, he'll remain the backup QB. Cassel's stat line against the Steelers didn't look exactly legendary, but he went out and did exactly what the Vikings need their QB to do: stay poised, step up into the pocket, hit open receivers, connect on the occasional deep ball, and most importantly -- don't give the ball away to the other team. In the second half against the Steelers, Cassel didn't throw a single incompletion -- he went an impressive 11 for 11. This week he'll face a Panthers defense that is giving up only 14.5 points per game(3rd in the NFL). They have the 8th best pass defense, allowing. Carolina also hasn't allowed a pass longer than 45 yards all season.
Cam comes to town
The Vikings have had problems in recent years with dual threat quarterbacks. Anybody remember RG3's game-sealing 76 yard touchdown last year in Washington? Newton has taken a slight step back this year in terms of mistakes. He's on pace to throw more interceptions this year than he has in either of his first two seasons, but a lot of that came from their last game against the Cardinals. Newton completed only 47% of his passes and threw 3 interceptions with zero touchdowns while being sacked 7 times. Newton isn't taking off and running often this year, but when he is, it's been fairly effective. He's averaging 6.2 yards per rush, but only 5 attempts per game. He's found the end zone via the ground once this year. On the bright side, Newton doesn't have as many viable offensive weapons as he has in the past. Viking killer Steve Smith is averaging just over 50 yards per game this year and has only 1 touchdown to his name. Newton's other favorite targets are Ted Ginn Jr. and tight end Greg Olsen. The Vikings have had issues bottling up tight ends this year and have been burned in the end zone 6 times by opposing TEs. How the Vikings cover Olsen could be a very important factor in the outcome of this game.
Today's game against the Panthers kicks off from Mall of America Field here in Minneapolis at noon central on the FAN. Paul Allen and Pete Bercich will handle the call on 100.3FM here in the Twin Cities and across the Vikings Radio Network.
Check out the graphic to the left. It was created by "starflyer", a regular in Purple Chat. Check out the other submissions in this week's competition on Purple Chat. Have a fresh idea for next week's game? Pay attention to Purple Chat for next week's Gameday Graphic thread. Did we miss out on a major plot line for today's game? Tell us below or on Purple Chat.
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This article was written by jab. You can normally find him meandering around Rube Chat. Or feel free to email him at email@example.com.