The Vikings will host their second of three straight home games Sunday when they welcome the Panthers to U.S. Bank Stadium.
Ahead of the weekend's slate of games, ESPN's team beat writers made notes and projections about their respective matchup.
ESPN's David Newton made a "bold prediction" that Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will have a productive outing against his former team. Newton wrote:
[Bridgewater] will pass for 300 yards and two touchdowns in his return to Minnesota as a starter for the first time since he suffered a horrific left knee injury during the Vikings 2016 training camp. Minnesota ranks 26thin the NFL in pass defense, giving up 260.7 yards per game, but has allowed no quarterback to top 300 yards in the past four games and only three all season.
Courtney Cronin looked at the Vikings offense and highlighted Adam Thielen's status under "what to watch for" heading into Sunday's game.
The Pro Bowler was moved to the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, though it's unclear whether he tested positive for the coronavirus or was deemed a close contact, the latter of which would increase the likelihood of him playing against Carolina. Thielen is coming off his best game of the season (8 catches, 123 yards, 2 TDs) and leads the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns.
Cronin opined that Thielen will be "sorely missed" if unable to go against Carolina.
For the "stat to know," she pointed to Dalvin Cook's affinity for the end zone. According to Cronin, his 13 rushing scores are tied for the most in a team's first 10 games in the past 10 seasons (Todd Gurley II with the Rams in 2018). The last player to score 14-plus touchdowns through 11 games was LaDainian Tomlinson for the Chargers in 2006.
Cronin and Newton both expect the Vikings to eke out a win over the Panthers, making final score predictions of 27-24 and 26-24, respectively.
View photos of the Vikings preparing to take on the Panthers during practice at TCO Performance Center.
Vikings teammates 'looking after' younger brothers playing collegiately
While cross-country travel to visit family hasn't been an option for the Vikings this season due to COVID-19 testing and restrictions, players are keeping close tabs on younger brothers currently playing at the college level.
Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press wrote about Cook's brother James, a junior Georgia, along with the brothers of Vikings rookies Troy Dye and D.J. Wonnum. Travis Dye is a running back at Oregon, and Dylan Wonnum is a tackle at South Carolina. Dye and Wonnum also are juniors.
Tomasson spoke with Dalvin and James' mother, Varondria Burnett, who said the brothers' relationship is "awesome."
Dalvin is the role model that James needs," said Burnett. "He can see, 'This is the route that I need to go because my brother is taking this route, and he's doing what he's supposed to do,' and that gives him the motivation to keep going."
A multi-purpose back, James is third in rushing for the 10th-ranked Bulldogs with 163 yards and fourth in receiving with 15 catches for 188 yards in seven games. He had an 82-yard touchdown reception earlier this season against Alabama.
"It just feels good to have an older brother that is out there and doing good in the league, [who] I can get advice from," James told Tomasson. "We play the same position, and it's just a great experience working out with him during the offseason and doing drills and stuff. It's just great having him as a brother."
Dalvin always talks with his brother after his games. When James doesn't get a lot of touches, he consoles him. But he points out all the other things he can do to help on offense, such as with blocking.
When the two are at home in the Miami area, they compete regularly in athletic events. They battle each other on the basketball court and race each other at the spur of the moment.
Dalvin, who starred at Florida State before being taken by the Vikings in the second round of the 2017 draft, agreed that his brother wins more of the races. But he wasn't about to concede much else.
"He's probably faster than me, to be honest," Dalvin told Twin Cities media members earlier this week. "He's built a little different. His legs have more definition than me. He's actually bigger than me so it's different but you have to measure the heart. I think he has it but mine's a little bigger. I'm the bigger brother, don't forget that."
To read Tomasson's feature in its entirety, click here.
Vikings Postgame LIVE
After every Vikings game this season, make sure to log onto the team's digital and social platforms to watch Vikings Postgame Live, a new streaming postgame show that will provide fans with highlights, postgame sound from Head Coach Mike Zimmer and players, analysis and much more.