Favre, passing attack difference for Minnesota
This could be a showdown between two excellent running teams - the Vikings' Adrian Peterson against Carolina's duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. But the Vikings also have a top-flight passing attack, with quarterback Brett Favre (106.0 passer rating, 27 touchdown passes) and receivers led by South Carolina's Sidney Rice (NFC-leading 1,075 yards). And Minnesota's defense hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 36 games, the longest streak in the NFL.
Favre limiting his mistakes
If the Panthers are counting on Favre to make some of his infamous bad decisions - resulting in the ill-timed interceptions that sometimes plagued him during his days in Green Bay and with the New York Jets - they probably shouldn't hold their breath. He's thrown seven interceptions this season, including eight games without one.
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The Panthers, however, have forced 11 turnovers in their past three games, and their 28 takeaways rank fifth in the league.
Circumstances point to big day for Vikings' 'D'
The Panthers' patched-up offensive line will be protecting an inexperienced quarterback in Matt Moore. That's a combination the Vikings are well-equipped to exploit: Their 41 sacks - led by end Jared Allen's 12.5 - lead the NFL. There's more to the Vikings' defense than Allen, though. Tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams play the run as well as anybody in the league. And All-Pro cornerback Antoine Winfield is back from a foot injury that sidelined him for six games. All Winfield did upon his return last week against Cincinnati was make nine solo tackles (10 total) and force a fumble.
The Panthers are 9-14 in regular-season night games in their 15 seasons, including 0-2 this year (a 21-7 loss in Dallas on "Monday Night Football" and a 24-17 home loss against Miami on a Thursday). Some notable games in the Panthers' night-time history:
- 1997, 49ers 34, Panthers 21: In the first Monday night game in franchise history, Carolina falls to the Steve Young- and Terrell Owens-led 49ers in then-Ericsson Stadium.
- 2004, Packers 24, Panthers 14: Receiver Steve Smith leaves the first game of the post-Super Bowl season with a broken leg on "Monday Night Football." The Panthers never recover and finish 7-9.
- 2008, Panthers 38, Bucs 23: In an anticipated showdown between the NFC South leaders, Carolina runs for team-record 299 yards (DeAngelo Williams 186, Jonathan Stewart 115).
- 2008, Giants 34, Panthers 28: Giants win in overtime on Sunday night, clinching home-field advantage over Panthers in NFC playoffs.
- 2009, One more time? Although the Panthers' Jan. 3 season finale against New Orleans is scheduled for 1 p.m., it's possible the NFL could use its "flex" schedule to move it to NBC's Sunday night game if the Saints have a chance to finish 16-0.
Thanks to the Brett Favre factor, this one will be played under the lights at Bank of America Stadium. That doesn't mean this game is going to be ready for prime time, however.
Favre's counterpart, Matt Moore, makes his third consecutive start. What we've seen from Moore - one really good deep ball per game and not a whole lot else - doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence.
The Panthers' only chance today will come if they can out-physical the Vikings, like Arizona did a couple of weeks ago. The Cardinals somehow held Adrian Peterson to 19 yards in 13 carries. I don't see that happening today, but that's what it would take - plus a couple of big turnovers.
Minnesota 27, Carolina 10.