The Minnesota Vikings came home from London with a 34-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4, so they went into their Week 5 bye on a high note. They made some news this week with the addition of quarterback Josh Freeman, but Matt Cassel is expected to make his second straight start in place of an injured Christian Ponder (ribs) in Week 6 against the Carolina Panthers.
Here are some noteworthy numbers that I feel will have a significant say in who wins on Sunday.
221- Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton has averaged just 221 passing yards per game this season in four games. The Vikings have allowed 326 yards per game through the air in their first four games, so something’s got to give here.
64- Cassel completed 64 percent of his passes (16-for-25) against the Steelers in Week 4, which is a mark Ponder has exceeded in just eight of his 29 career starts. To say nothing of Cassel’s lack of turnovers in the game and routine ability to hit receivers in stride without hesitation.
20- Newton has just 20 rush attempts so far this season, or five per game, which is below the average rush attempts per game (7.9) he had over his first two seasons. Newton’s ability to use his legs, or more specifically offensive coordinator Mike Shula’s willingness to feature him as a runner, could be a difference maker on Sunday.
12- Panthers defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy each have three sacks so far this season, and nine of the team’s 12 sacks have come from the defensive line. Minnesota’s offensive line will have to perform well collectively against a stout front seven for the Panthers, or it may be a long day for Cassel and lead to Freeman seeing his first action as a Viking.
9- The Vikings only have nine sacks so far this season, with five coming in Week 4 against the Steelers. Simply put, they have to put consistent pressure on Newton and keep him confined to the pocket for their overmatched secondary to stand a chance.
3.6- Carolina has allowed 92.3 rushing yards per game this season (seventh in the league), including a sixth-best in the league 3.6 yards per carry. Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson will obviously present a big challenge, as he is averaging 4.6 yards per carry so far this season after a rebound performance against Pittsburgh (23 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns).
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.