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What'd They Say: Panthers Talk About Vikings

The Vikings are set to travel to Carolina for Sunday's NFC matchup.

Two familiar faces will be on the Panthers sideline, including Captain Munnerlyn. The former Vikings cornerback said he's been impressed by the performance of Minnesota's offense this season.

"Case Keenum is playing lights-out. He's taking care of the football," Munnerlyn told media members earlier this week. "Their receivers are getting open – Adam Thielen's having a great year. A guy that, when I was there, he was a special teams guy. And he got better and better. I was like, 'Man, who is this guy?' when I first got there. I knew he was going to be a player. He's very special. He runs great routes, he's got great hands.

"You add Stefon Diggs to the mix, man, he's special, also," Munnerlyn continued. "They've got a group of guys on offense. We know we have our hands full, but at the same time I know what this defense is capable of doing. So we have to go out there, we have to compete, and we have to try to contain those guys and try to make plays on the football."

Munnerlyn isn't the only one in Carolina taking notice of the 10-2 Vikings, however.

Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera said he's watched Diggs and Thielen develop over the past couple of seasons and knows the threat they can be to a defense.

"They both had good years last year, [and] this year they both have stepped to the forefront. I think a big part of it is they've had a lot of success as a team," Rivera said. "We've all taken notice of the football team. They're running the ball well, they're throwing it well, they're one of the best teams in the red zone, they're really good at third downs on both sides of the ball. There's a lot to this game."

Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly said he's aware that Minnesota has a number of offensive players who can make get open and make plays.

"Kyle [Rudolph], I played against Kyle since I was in high school," Kuechly said. "I played against Thielen and Diggs last year, and those two guys are really good. Diggs is real explosive, so is Thielen. Thielen's had a bunch of big catches for them for long yardage. He runs outside, inside in the slot at 3 – those guys can do it all."

If the Vikings are able to secure a ninth consecutive win – and sixth straight on the road – this weekend, they also will clinch the NFC North division title.

The Panthers (8-4) currently sit second in the NFC South behind New Orleans (9-4) and know how much a win would help their chances of winning the division.

Here are other highlights from the Panthers talking about the Vikings this week:

Rivera on CB Xavier Rhodes:

"He's a terrific cover guy, a physical cover guy. The thing that you've got to do is win at the line of scrimmage against him. He's very competitive, works very hard at what he does, and he really is playing very well right now.

"He is a physical player, and he does tackle well. For the most part, they all tackle well. They're a good tackling defense – very similar to what we try to do – and I think this game is going to come down to, I think, about field position."

Panthers TE Greg Olsen on facing the Vikings

"It's a great challenge. Obviously they're playing as well as anybody in the league. They're very good in all areas, both sides of the ball. They're talented, they're well-coached. They're 10-2 for a reason. That's hard to do in this league. This is a great challenge for us – I'm glad that we have it at our stadium, at home, in front of our fans. It's going to be just a great game.


"They do what they do, especially defensively. They have a great scheme, Zimmer's been a guy that's run this style, this system, for a long time, he's been very successful. Every defense he's kind of overseen, they've been very successful."

Kuechly on Keenum and Minnesota's RB corps

"I think they've got a good running back combination. I think [Jerick] McKinnon is playing really well. He's good in space, he's good in between the tackles, and Latavius [Murray], we played against him last year in Oakland. He's a big, physical guy that can run. And they're good. I think that's the one thing that I think people kind of don't give them enough credit for. Obviously they're really good on defense, but they've been scoring a lot of points, and there's a reason for that.

"Case [Keenum] is a big part of it – he's playing with a lot of confidence. I think he can extend plays. He's not one of those guys that just sits back there and sits on the spot and throws it. He's one of the guys that can scramble around, create space, create opportunity. And he's made a couple plays that are kind of like Cam [Newton] and stuff that Russell Wilson's done against us, where you think the play's over, but he just throws it and his guy makes a play on it. We've got a lot to worry about this week, and we know we've got our work cut out for us."

Panthers QB Cam Newton on Vikings defense

"They're very comfortable in their scheme. When you're playing a team like this, as far as how they disguise how fast they play, how they rally to the football, and you just have to make sure that you're on your 'A' game. And that you're firing on all cylinders, being very alert of everything they're throwing at us. We just have to have answers for it. "

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

"They're a great team. They have a really good defense, they fly around, they're physical, they play well as a team. It's going to take all of us."

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