When the Minnesota Vikings take the field in Charlotte this week against the Panthers, both teams will feature rookie QBs in Christian Ponder and Cam Newton. Both teams will also bring in lackluster records, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this won’t be a game worth watching. Newton has been entertaining all year, and Ponder actually did well for himself versus the Packers in his starting debut last week. The difficult part in all of this is finding clear separation between two teams that haven’t separated themselves from others throughout the year.
The edge in this game will likely come on the defensive side of the ball. Minnesota has been stout against the run and (last week notwithstanding) have given up relatively few points. However, they haven’t faced a mobile QB like Newton yet this year, so it will be imperative that the front 7 for Minnesota stay home and stay keyed in on the Panthers’ athletic QB. It is easier said than done, but if the Vikings can do it, it will make a long afternoon for Carolina.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have their hands full with RB Adrian Peterson, as most teams do on most weeks. The problem for the Panthers is that they are not a very stout run-stopping team to begin with (they’re giving up 133 ypg), so bringing in an All-Pro back on a hot streak probably won’t help their cause. At the same time, Christian Ponder is trying to find his way and learn to lead this offense. Last week was a reasonable debut showing, and Carolina shouldn’t pose the same match-up problems that the Packers did. We would not be surprised to see Ponder throw for 250-280 yards and 2 or 3 scores.
Don’t kid yourself. Neither of these teams has had a stellar year, and although both have looked good in several losing efforts, it’s still a match-up of teams that may well finish last in their respective divisions. But that will not stop those who are playing from playing very hard, and it won’t stop both teams from getting an up-close look at the young talent they have before them. If they can parlay that talent into good future teams, we won’t be calling this one a cellar dweller battle for long.
We are predicting a 5-8 point win by the Vikings on the road. Enjoy!
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