The Minnesota Vikings’ start to the season seems unnecessarily cruel. A year after winning the division and winning 11 one-score games, the Vikings’ results have flipped in the other direction. During Minnesota’s first three games, all of them were settled by less than a score.
But unlike last season, the Vikings have been on the wrong end of all of those decisions. Against the Chargers, Minnesota was the victim of a late turnover, which occurred after a pass was batted around in different directions. The Vikings’ opponent in Week 4 will provide a welcome step-down in competition.
Carolina is also off to an 0-3 start, but the Panthers’ futility was mostly expected. In this past spring’s draft, Black sports news shows the Panthers took quarterback Bryce Young with the No. 1 pick. Growing pains were expected from Young. Aches and pains have also followed for Young, who has taken early punishment.
If the Vikings hope to be a playoff contender this season, Minnesota can’t waste this opportunity to win on the road. The Panthers were never seriously considered to be a Super Bowl contender. While Carolina would like to build positive momentum, another loss wouldn’t impact its future too much.
Vikings Have Recent Success Against Panthers
The Vikings and Panthers don’t have a long history. No team really can with Carolina, which came into the NFL as an expansion team in 1995. The Vikings lead the all-time series 10-6. Minnesota has won four of the past five meetings between the teams, including wins during the 2021 and 2020 seasons. The Vikings are 3.5-point road favorites for Sunday’s game.
Young is Doubtful for Sunday
There is no questioning what Carolina head coach Frank Reich’s strategy is. If Bryce Young is healthy, he will play at quarterback for the Panthers. When Young will be ready isn’t clear. He suffered an ankle injury and sat out Carolina’s Week 3 loss to Seattle.
The Panthers backup option isn’t a bad one. Veteran quarterback Andy Dalton is a reliable, if unspectacular, starting quarterback. During Carolina’s 37-27 loss to Seattle last week, Dalton put up 361 passing yards and two touchdowns. If Young starts, he will want to build off his Week 2 performance against the Saints.
He completed 66.7 percent of his passes against New Orleans and threw for 153 yards and a touchdown. Young’s first start in the season opener was rough. He was intercepted twice and finished with a 48.8 quarterback rating.
O’Connell Seeks Solution to Turnover Issues
Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell isn’t known for being much of a disciplinarian. The Vikings coach, however, did make a public declaration this week. O’Connell let it be known that Minnesota couldn’t afford more turnovers.
The start to the Vikings’ season has been destroyed by giving the ball away too much. Minnesota has lost seven fumbles. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has also thrown two interceptions. Cousins’ interception last week came at the worst possible time. Minnesota was driving for the go-ahead touchdown when he threw a pass that was batted by two defenders. The ball fell in the hands of Los Angeles cornerback Kenneth Murray Jr., who fell down to seal the win.
Core of Panthers’ Defense Stuck on Bench
Carolina’s injuries are piling up on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers were already shorthanded before they found out safety Xavier Woods would be out four to six weeks. Woods had contributed 11 tackles and knocked two passes during the Panthers’ first three games.
Carolina doesn’t have much depth on defense. Linebacker Shaq Thompson had already been lost for the season with a fractured fibula, while cornerback Jaycee Horn is on the injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Linebackers Frankie Luvu and cornerback CJ Henderson were also injured in the first half Sunday.
Captain Kirk Continues to Pass Well
Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins has kept the Vikings offense this season. Cousins became the fifth player in league history to throw for more than 325 passing yards and two touchdown games during the first three games of the season.
Tom Brady, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Patrick Mahomes, and Derek Carr are the only other players to do that in league history. Against the Chargers, Cousins passed for 367 yards and threw three touchdowns. Cousins has passed for 4,000 or more yards during the previous three seasons.
Dalton Asked to Shoulder Heavy Burden
Being a backup quarterback for Young didn’t end up being an easy near-retirement job for Dalton. Reich asked the quarterback to carry a heavy load. Carolina ended up attempting 58 passes, and Dalton completed 34. The Panthers’ plan was a little surprising, considering they went out and added former Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders in free agency.
Sanders only got nine carries against Seattle. He finished with 24 yards and scored a touchdown. Sanders has been an important part of the passing game as well, but Carolina would likely see more production from him. Sanders has 139 yards on 41 carries so far this year.
Jefferson Would Like More Good Vibes
Justin Jefferson would like for things to be different. Not just on the field. The Vikings wide receiver would also appreciate more clarity with his contract. What has occurred with Minnesota over the first few weeks has been tough.
Following the loss to the Chargers last Sunday, Jefferson vented his frustration that he was unhappy with losing. Minnesota will want to find a way to keep its star receiver under control. Jefferson finished with 149 receiving yards and scored his first touchdown of the season.
Jefferson was already frustrated with Minnesota because contract negotiations had been difficult. Not seeing the Vikings win on the field either has made him even more frustrated.
Panthers Need to Cut Down on Penalties
The last thing the Panthers need to do is make mistakes on offense with a young quarterback. Carolina was flagged for eight penalties against Seattle last week. Seven of those penalties came on offense. Carolina’s offense finished with a season-high 378 yards against the Seahawks, but they couldn’t stop tripping themselves up. Up-to-date sports news shows Carolina finished with 13 penalties for 82 yards.
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