Minnesota Vikings (1-6 SU, 3-3-1 ATS) at Carolina Panthers (2-5 SU, 5-1-1 ATS), Sunday October 30th, 2011. 1:00PM EST, NFL Week 8, Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C.
By Jay Horne, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Min +3/CAR -3
Over/Under Total: 47.5
Two bottom dwellers in the NFC will slug it out this Sunday when the Carolina Panthers welcome the Minnesota Vikings to Bank of America Stadium. The game will feature two teams that have had disappointing seasons thus far through 2011 with 3 wins combined. The Vikings have been the bigger disappointment as they sit at the 1-6 mark on the season. Minnesota acquired QB Donovan McNabb over the off-season to bring in immediate help behind center in hopes to make something out of the 2011 season.
However, McNabb has failed to deliver this season and was benched last week to make way for rookie QB Christian Ponder to get his feet wet in the league. Last week Ponder completed just 13 of 32 passing for 219 yards with 2 scores and 2 picks in a 33-27 loss to the Packers. While Ponder did not answer any major concerns on offense, it was a step in the right direction. This week the Vikings will turn to Ponder for the 2nd straight week in hopes to revive the lifeless Vikings offense on the road in Charlotte.
For the Panthers, they captured a big win at home last week against the Redskins 33-20 to reach their 2nd win on the season. Carolina captured just 2 wins for the entire 2010 season and there is hope that the program is improving with new head coach Ron Rivera. One thing that is certain is that rookie QB Cam Newton may be the most exciting player in football to watch. Despite throwing the 2nd most interceptions out of any quarterback in the NFL (9), Newton has single handedly restored the Panthers passing offense.
Newton is a guy that has the athletic talent to scramble to keep passing plays alive and the speed to tuck the ball away while running for first downs as well. The scrambling ability has been huge for the offense this season and Newton has been able to make the throws to give the Panthers receivers the opportunity to make plays. Overall, Newton has completed 60% passing for 2,103 yards with 8 touchdowns. Of course the turnovers remain a concern, but Newton is also averaging 288 yards per game through the air this season which ranks 5th in the NFL.
Remember a year ago, the Panthers ranked dead last year averaging 258 yards of “total” offense. Therefore, you can see just in the numbers what type of different Newton has made on the offense. Panthers WR Steve Smith has been superb with the regenerated passing attack this season. Smith currently leads the NFL with 818 receiving yards with 3 touchdowns while averaging over 20 yards per reception. Smith has been the primary weapon in the Carolina passing offense this season and Newton will definitely look his way frequently this Sunday.
On the other side of the field, the Vikings have struggled to find any success in their passing offense. However, the Vikings still have one of the best weapons in the NFL by way of running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson leads the league with 712 rushing yards with 8 touchdowns on the season. The Panthers defense has been horrible against the run this season given up the 3rd most yards (133ypg) of any team in the NFL. Peterson has averaged 5.0 yards per carry this season and he is expected to be the focus point in the Vikings offensive attack this Sunday against the Panthers.
It is important that the Vikings control the ground game this Sunday to not only move the football on offense, but to also provide rest to the Vikings defense. If the Vikings defense can stay rested, they will be competitive against the Carolina passing attack. However if the Vikings fail to get things going on offense, the Panthers have an offense that can wear down defenses late in ball games which will play a big impact in the outcome if that scenario plays out.
Ultimately this game will come down to the defense that can step up and play well. As previously stated, the Panthers have been gashed this season for 133 yards per game on the ground and now have the responsibility of trying to stop the best tailback in the NFL. For the Vikings, their pass defense has been horrific this season giving up 275 yards per game through the air. This week Minnesota faces a Carolina passing attack that has moved the ball against everyone and shown no signs of slowing down. Therefore, the defense that can rise to the challenge will likely play a huge factor in deciding this Sunday’s winner in Charlotte.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The obvious play here is the over 47.5 total. The Panthers defense failed to stop any offense this season and the Vikings running game alone will score points even if Ponder does not play well. Additionally, Carolina will score their fair share of points as well against that weak Minnesota pass defense. Both teams have reached the over total in 5 of their last 7 games and that is the play here again. Take a big play on the over 47.5!
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