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Early Look: Vikings Aim for Rebound Against Panthers

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings are 10 games in with six to go in 2020 and will need to dig deep if they want to get back in the playoff picture.

Minnesota is 4-6 following Sunday's loss to Dallas, which snapped a three-game win streak.

The Vikings will host the 4-7 Panthers on Sunday, and Minnesota will look to get back on track at home.

Here's an Early Look at the Vikings Week 12 matchup against the Panthers, presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud Ophthalmology Partner of the Minnesota Vikings.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Panthers.

Passing: Kirk Cousins had one of his best games of the season against the Cowboys, even if the end result was a loss.

He completed 22 of 30 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 140.1. Cousins did lose a fumble during a sack on a play after he was hit in the helmet.

Cousins' performance was his fourth straight with a passer rating over 100, and he has been at 138.0 or higher in three of those games.

The quarterback has now completed 184 of 275 passes (66.9 percent) for 2,461 yards with 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 102.7.

The Vikings will likely see an old friend Sunday in Teddy Bridgewater, who was a first-round pick by Minnesota in 2014.

Bridgewater did not play in Week 11, but is likely to return Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

P.J. Walker threw for 258 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in Carolina's 20-0 win over Detroit. He posted a quarterback rating of 77.8.

Bridgewater has completed 238 of 330 passes (72.1 percent) for 2,552 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has a passer rating of 98.7 in 10 starts.

Bridgewater was the Vikings starter for nearly two full seasons in 2014 and 2015, and helped lead Minnesota to an NFC North title in the latter season. He suffered a devastating knee injury just before the start of the 2016 season and made his return to the field in December of 2017.

Rushing: Dalvin Cook posted another 100-yard game Sunday, gaining 115 yards and finding the end zone once on 27 carries.

Cook handled nearly all of the workload in a physical game, as Alexander Mattison logged just one carry for a gain of 6.

Cook ranks second in the NFL with 1,069 rushing yards and leads the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns. Minnesota ranks sixth in the NFL at 150.7 rushing yards per game.

The Panthers are 20th at 106.4 rushing yards per game. Carolina is expected to be without star running back Christian McCaffrey, who is dealing with a shoulder injury.

Mike Davis has 449 rushing yards and three scores this season for the Panthers, and Bridgewater also has three touchdown runs with 196 yards.

Receiving: Adam Thielen hauled in a pair of scores Sunday for the second straight game as he tallied eight catches for 123 yards.

Thielen leads the league with 11 touchdown catches, and he has 49 catches for 646 yards. He was put on the COVID-19/Reserve list Monday, and his status for Sunday's game is uncertain.

Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson also had another big day with three catches for 86 yards, and scored on a 39-yard pass from Cousins.

Jefferson leads Minnesota in yards (848), and has 45 receptions with four scores.

Cook had five catches for 45 yards, while Kyle Rudolph (three catches for 28 yards) and Irv Smith, Jr., (two catches for 23 yards) chipped in against Dallas.

Carolina is led by wide receivers Robby Anderson (71 catches for 818 yards and a touchdown) and D.J. Moore (46 catches for 863 yards and four scores).

Anderson had seven catches for 46 yards Sunday, and Moore had seven receptions for 127 yards. Curtis Samuel added eight catches for 70 yards and a score.

Davis (305 yards and two scores) and Samuel (445 yards and three scores) each have 49 receptions this season. All in all, Carolina has four players with 45-plus catches in 2020.

Carolina's offense ranks 19th at 353.1 yards per game. Minnesota is eighth at 387.1.

Defense: The Vikings defense had an up-and-down performance against the Cowboys, but couldn't hold a pair of fourth-quarter leads.

Minnesota gave up back-to-back scoring drives in the final frame, including the eventual game-winning score with 97 seconds to go.

Eric Kendricks had an interception, while Jaleel Johnson recorded a sack.

Eric Wilson leads the Vikings with 3.0 sacks and is tied for the team lead with Harrison Smith with three interceptions. Kendricks has two picks in his past three games.

The Vikings allowed 376 yards to the Cowboys and now rank 22nd in the league with 382.8 yards allowed per game.

Carolina has allowed 362.3 yards per game, which ranks 18th this season. The Panthers allowed a season-low 185 yards to the Lions in Week 11.

Brian Burns has a team-high 6.0 sacks, and Donte Jackson has a trio of interceptions.

Minnesota has 12 takeaways in 2020, while Carolina has 14.

Special Teams: Minnesota saw some improvements on special teams, but still has some areas to clean up.

Andre DePaola was the long snapper Sunday after Austin Cutting was inactive.

Dan Bailey hit all four of his extra point attempts. Bailey is now 8-for-10 on field goals and has made 24 of 25 extra points in 2020.

Britton Colquitt averaged 51.3 yards per punt on three kicks, but he had a net average of just 35.3 yards because the Vikings gave up 48 yards on three punt returns.

Returner K.J. Osborn gained 3 yards on lone punt return, which ended with a fumble recovered by the Vikings. Minnesota ranks last in the NFL with an average of just 1.9 yards per punt return.

Panthers kicker Joey Slye has made 22-of-27 field goals in 2020, and is 23-for-25 on extra point attempts.

Punter Joseph Charlton averages 47.5 yards per punt this season.

Pharoh Cooper has 12 punt returns for 69 yards (5.8 average), and has 430 yards on 18 kick returns (23.9 average) in 2020.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.

Quick glance at the NFC playoff picture

Minnesota currently sits two games back in the NFC Wild Card race with six games to play.

Entering Week 12, the division leaders are the Saints (8-2), Rams (7-3), Packers (7-3) and Eagles (3-6-1).

Seattle (7-3), Tampa Bay (7-4) and Arizona (6-4) currently hold the three Wild Card spots in the NFC.

The Vikings sit in ninth place in the NFC behind the 5-5 Bears.

Of the eight teams above the Vikings, four play each other in Week 12. The Bears are at the Packers, and the Seahawks are at the Eagles.


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