The Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers are both surprises in the 2017 NFL season and are both serious playoff, even Super Bowl, contenders. The Vikings have gotten great play out of third-string quarterback Case Keenum and the Panthers defense is back to being one of the best in the NFL this year. So let’s take a look at what appears to be a defensive battle?

Can the Panthers protect Cam Newton?

Newton was sacked eight times in last years loss to the Vikings and if anything anywhere near that happens this year, the Panthers will have no shot to win this game. Everson Griffen vs. Matt Kalil may be the most important match-up in this game. Griffen has become one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and Kalil is an average at best offensive lineman.

Will TE Greg Olson return this week?

Newton desperately needs Greg Olson back in the lineup and their is a chance he will be able to play this weekend, if he does it will give Cam Newton a weapon that he will need to win this game. Without Olson I think the odds are not good for the Panthers as the offensive has been pretty stagnant this year,

Which team can run the ball?

Both teams feature top 10 run defenses with the Vikings checking in at number two and the Panthers are fourth against the run. Running the ball will be a big key in this game because with these two defenses it is very possible that this game will be decided by field position and that is why running the ball will be such a deciding factor in this game.

Prediction

The Vikings defense will be just too much for the Panthers offense and the Vikings’ ability to run the ball plus Case Keenum’s ability to make a couple key plays will be the difference in this game.

Vikings 17, Panthers 13.

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