The Vikings (10-2) are preparing to head down south to take on the Carolina Panthers (8-4) at Bank of America Stadium.
Carolina has won four of its past five and is coming off of a 31-21 loss against the New Orleans Saints in Week 13.
Minnesota will look to win the third consecutive game under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer against Carolina (2014, 2016). The Vikings can clinch the NFC North Division with a win this weekend. View the full list of the NFL’s Week 14 playoff scenarios here.
Let’s see which team the experts pick to win the matchup between the Panthers and the Vikings.
It's been a helluva stretch of road games for the 10-2 Vikings, who won in Detroit on Thanksgiving, played in Atlanta last Sunday and now stare down a third straight game with a playoff atmosphere in Carolina. Playing in front of the home crowd should help the Panthers, though they'll find this Minnesota defense to be stouter than the Saints group they just saw. The Vikings are allowing a scant 17.0 points per game, tops in the NFC. Carolina must get traction on the ground against the Minnesota front -- and not solely from Cam Newton. Although Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey have pulled their numbers up lately, they're still only averaging 3.2 and 3.5 yards per carry, compared with Newton's 5.8. The Vikes' run defense is third in yards per rush allowed. Offensively, Minnesota QB Case Keenum has been every bit as effective as the defense. He is second to only Tom Brady in N3P (positive plays minus negative plays divided by qualifying snaps), because he's thrown for a ton of first downs (123) despite having far fewer snaps than most quarterbacks, and because he's suffered just five giveaways (five picks, no fumbles).
Vikings 27, Panthers 21 — Elliott Harrison NFL.com
The Vikings are trying to pull off a sweep of the Rams, Falcons and Panthers in a four-week span, the last two on the road. If they do, they’ll have the kind of resume Ohio State and Alabama would envy. While the drumbeat for Case Keenum is not undeserved, it's past time the defense (which held the Rams and Falcons to single digits) got its due credit for this run. Cam Newton could use Greg Olsen this week, because his absence last week against the Saints was glaring.
*Vikings 26, Panthers 17 — *David Steele, Sporting News
*When: Sunday at noon (CT) on CBS, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina*
This is arguably the game of the week. It's at home for the Carolina Panthers, and it's a huge game for them because last week's loss leaves them looking at a Wild-Card spot. Carolina is hosting one of the NFL's hottest teams in the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings present a tough matchup for the Panthers. Carolina is a team that wants to play with solid defense while imposing its physical will on offense. However, they won't be able to impose that will against Minnesota's defense.
The Vikings have the size up front to counter Carolina's power-run game, and they have the cornerback talent to lock up man-to-man with any of Cam Newton’s targets.
While the Panthers defense is good, it's had a hard time against balanced offenses like the Saints. So much has been made about Minnesota's defense this season that many people may not realize the Vikings have the No. 5 offense (370.4 yards per game) in football. The Vikings can run, and they can make big plays in the pass game with Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph.
Because of Minnesota's defensive prowess and its offensive balance, I have to take the Vikings in a close one.
*Vikings 23, Panthers 20 *— Chris Simms, Bleacher Report
This is one of the games of the week. The Vikings are playing consecutive road games outside the division, which is tough. I think that will catch up with them here. I think the Panthers get back on track after losing to the Saints. Cam Newton has a big day with his legs.
Panthers 19, *Vikings 16 *— Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
The Vikings are fighting for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, while the Panthers are fighting for a playoff berth. Case Keenum will have a big game and strengthen his MVP candidacy.
Vikings 24, Panthers 21 — Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk
Mike Zimmer has handled Cam Newton with a lesser defense than the one Zimmer currently has.
Vikings 27, Panthers 24 — Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
FiveThirtyEight’s 2015 NFL forecast uses an Elo-based model to calculate each team’s chances of winning each week.
Pre-game win probabilities: *Vikings 53 percent *— FiveThirtyEight.com
6 of 8 experts pick the Vikings, CBS Sports
5 of 6 experts pick the Vikings, MMQB
The Panthers are home this week, after last week’s road loss to the Saints. But they’re not getting much of a break from the schedule. The new kings of the NFC are coming to town. The Vikings have won their past eight straight, beating the Falcons last week. With the Eagles dethroned by the Seahawks last week, not only is Minnesota officially the hottest team in the NFC, they’re also in first place.
The Vikings are slight favorites on most books, but the game has our panel split. Six picks for Minnesota to win straight up; three for the Panthers.
6 of 9 experts pick the Vikings,* *SB Nation
9 of 10 experts pick the Vikings, ESPN