EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — This is a measuring stick game at its finest.
The Vikings are headed to Carolina to take on the Panthers, a team that went 15-1 in 2015, claimed the NFC Championship and has won 14 home games in a row (including playoffs).
Minnesota sits at 2-0 and is one of seven unbeaten teams left in the NFL. The Panthers are 1-1.
Although Carolina lost in Super Bowl 50 and were limited to 10 points, the Panthers have averaged 32.3 points per game during their win streak in Charlotte.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has a streak of its own going. The Vikings have won five straight regular-season games dating back to last season, the longest current streak in the NFL.
Someone's streak will come to an end Sunday.
On the airwaves: The game will be broadcast by FOX (KMSP FOX 9 in the Twin Cities). Chris Myers, Ronde Barber and Jennifer Hale will be on the call. The game also will be broadcast on KFAN 100.3-FM and across the Minnesota Vikings Radio Network by the team of Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, Greg Coleman and Ben Leber.
Three things to watch:
Stacking the box— Eric Smith
The Vikings have scored wins against Tennessee and Green Bay to open the season, but both opponents have stacked the box to take away Minnesota's running game.
The Vikings have 50 carries for 95 yards this season and will be without running back Adrian Peterson for the foreseeable future after he had surgery Thursday to repair of torn meniscus.
Will the Panthers pack the box and sell out against the run like previous teams? If so, that leaves favorable matchups on the outside for wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who leads the NFL with 285 receiving yards.
Or will the Panthers back off and force the Vikings to beat them on the ground? Either way, the Vikings know their running game needs to get moving.
"It's obviously tougher when teams pack the box for our run game, but we've got to find ways around it," said Vikings fullback Zach Line. "Because once you break through that box, it's pretty open."
A new-look line — Lindsey Young
As the Vikings prepare to face the defending NFC North Champs on the road, one area to watch will be Minnesota's offensive line. The Panthers defense is a talented one, and the Vikings will be without starting left tackle Matt Kalil, who underwent hip surgery this week.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator said it's beneficial that T.J. Clemmings, who started all 16 games on the right side in 2015, has been practicing at left tackle since the beginning of training camp.
"He's got a lot of reps over there," Turner said. "There were times where Matt missed some reps, and there were times where we just had him working with the second group. I don't see [communication] as being an issue in this game."
The unit will be working to protect quarterback Sam Bradford, who will be making just his second start for Minnesota after throwing for 286 yards en route to a win over Green Bay last week.
Know the Carolina Panthers key contributors on offense, defense and special teams heading into Week 3's matchup.
Can the Vikings contain Cam?— Craig Peters
Cam Newton ranks sixth all-time among quarterbacks in total yards through six seasons with 22,108. Newton posted 18,810 passing yards and 3,298 rushing yards. Peyton Manning had the second-highest rushing total among the five ahead of Newton with 582 rushing yards to join his 24,885 passing yards tallied more than a decade ago.
Newton is the only player in NFL history to have five seasons with 3,000 or more passing yards and 500 or more rushing yards.
The Vikings last faced the Panthers in 2014 and limited Newton to 194 passing yards, 5.54 yards per attempt and a rating of 65.7. He's only had four lower passing yardage totals, two lower yards-per-attempt averages and two lower passer ratings in 21 regular-season games since.
Newton, however, rushed nine times for 49 yards on a day when the temperature was 12 degrees Fahrenheit.
Click here are some of the Vikings thoughts on the task ahead.
—Since 2007, when Minnesota drafted Peterson, the Vikings have the most rushing yards in the NFL (19,975). Peterson has accounted for 11,725 (58.7) of those yards. In that same span, Carolina has the second-most rushing yards in the NFL (19,788). The Panthers drafted Jonathan Stewart in 2008, and he has accounted for 5,887 (29.8 percent) of those yards. Both Peterson and Stewart have been ruled out for Sunday's game.
—Minnesota's defensive linemen have seven sacks this season, tied with Seattle for the most at a position group. Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph each have two sacks while Everson Griffen, Brian Robison and Tom Johnson each have one.
— Entering Week 3, the Panthers ranked fifth in the NFL in time of possession at 34:07 per game. The Vikings rank 13th at 29:57 per game.
— Carolina leads the league by averaging 166.5 rushing yards per game. The Vikings defense is sixth against the run, giving up just 73.5 rushing yards per game.
"I don't think many people think we can win this game. I don't think many people thought we could win the last game," — *Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Sunday's matchup in Carolina. *
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