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Vikings Familiar with Challenge of Reigning League MVPs

EDEN PRAIRIE. Minn. — One of the biggest storylines heading into Sunday's tilt against Carolina is how the Vikings defense will fare against Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton won the NFL MVP award in 2015 after putting up staggering numbers — 3,837 passing yards and 35 passing touchdowns to go along with 636 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

"He's a big guy, man," Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson said of the 6-foot-5 Newton. "He's a guy that can run, he can pass … he's a guy that can take over games."

Sunday won't be the first time the Vikings have faced a reigning league MVP. In fact, Minnesota has played 25 games against a player who win the MVP award the following season, going 11-14 in such contests.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of historical data is from the Vikings 1998 season was that Minnesota played four games against reigning MVPs as the award was shared by packers quarterback Brett Favre and Lions running back Barry Sanders.

The Vikings went a perfect 4-0 in those games on the way to a 15-1 regular-season mark.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Titans quarterback Steve McNair were co-MVPs in 2003 and played the Vikings the following season. Minnesota went 1-1 in those games, losing to Manning but beating McNair, who left the game in the first quarter.

The Vikings have played the same MVP twice in recent years, splitting four games with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after he won the award in 2011 and 2014.

The bulk of Minnesota's MVP schedule came in the late 1980s and 1990s as it faced a reigning MVP nine times in 12 seasons. The Vikings went 6-8 in games against big names such as Joe Montana, Steve Young, Emmitt Smith and Kurt Warner.

The Vikings have had their share of MVPs over the years, too. In the 46 seasons the league has named an MVP, Minnesota has had three winners — defensive tackle Alan Page in 1971, quarterback Fran Tarkenton in 1975 and running back Adrian Peterson in 2012.

Zoned-in in the red zone

Newton and Vikings quarterback Kyle Rudolph have started the season hot when their teams have made it inside an opponent's 20-yard line. Newton is 6-of-8 passing for 64 yards and four touchdowns for a passer rating of 137.5 that is the fourth-highest in the red zone across the NFL.

Bradford, who made his 2016 debut and first start with Vikings on Sunday against the Packers was 3-of-3 passing for 21 yards and touchdown. His rating of 135.4 in the red zone is just below Newton's.

Rhodes questionable

Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes has been progressing from a knee injury he suffered before Minnesota's season opener. He is listed as questionable after being limited three days in a row at practice.

Minnesota has started Trae Waynes opposite Trae Waynes in each of the past two games, and Waynes delivered an interception to help seal the Vikings victory over the Packers.

Minnesota placed running back Adrian Peterson on injured reserve, the team announced Friday.

Click **here** for the full injury report for both teams.

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