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Panthers at Vikings offensive preview: The prodigal son returns

If you think Teddy Bridgewater will miss his homecoming game, you’ve got another thing coming

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers offense was hamstrung by injuries as they hosted the Detroit Lions last weekend. The team was without All Pro running back Christian McCaffrey and starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. They turned to Mike Davis and PJ Walker, respectively, and still managed to have a very productive day. This week, they’ll play an actual NFL defense as they visit the Minnesota Vikings.

Panthers offense

Man, a big round of applause for PJ Walker and his performance against the Lions. It was hard not to root for the guy to succeed, and he played pretty well (the two egregious end zone interceptions not withstanding). It’s clear now that PJ could be a backup quarterback in this league because he did exactly what you want your backup QB to do: win one game when called upon. If the starter misses much more than that, your team is in trouble anyway. My money would be on PJ not starting this week. There is no chance in Hades that Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t start against the Vikings. In Minnesota. In front of those fans. Teddy could literally die, and his zombified corps would rise from the grave to start in that game.

Word on the street is CMC could get some practice reps this week, so he could be back as well. I wouldn’t bet on it, however, as I’d hope beyond hope that Matt Rhule would be extra cautious with the face of the franchise. Expect to see plenty of Mike Davis again, as well as some Rodney Smith sprinkled in. The running game didn’t exactly light the world on fire last weekend, so hopefully the offensive line can open some more holes against the Vikes. It was nice to see DJ Moore get back into some running game action, so I’d like to see him get another shot or two on some jet sweeps this weekend.

PJ Walker did a fantastic job of involving the big three on the outside. His former Temple teammate Robby Anderson had the least production of the three and still notched seven catches for 46 yards. DJ Moore had some big plays down the field, and Curtis Samuel made a beautiful catch for the lone passing touchdown of the day. In a perfect world, this is the type of spread that Teddy will have on Sunday. The more play makers that get involved, the better.

Vikings Defense

Fresh off a loss to the. . . *checks notes * Andy Dalton led Cowboys (lol), the Vikings will look to get things right defensively. That may be a challenge after the Red Rifle fired three touchdowns and led his team to 31 total points. The Vikings have had some really good defenses in recent years, but they did not look great against the Cowboys. Danielle Hunter being on IR doesn’t help, but they allowed 180 rushing yards and didn’t sack Dalton a single time on Sunday.

The linebackers are also a banged up group as Anthony Barr is on IR as well. They still have the fantastic Eric Kendricks manning the middle. Kendricks is already just shy of 100 tackles, and he had five pass breakups and a couple picks to boot. His main wingman is Eric Wilson, who has made plenty of splash plays this season: three interceptions, three sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and a blocked kick. Since the Vikings haven’t gotten much production out of the defensive line, Wilson has been an integral part of the defense.

The secondary is led by Harrison Smith, one of the best safeties in the game. He has been around the ball a lot this season, especially on passing plays. He’s notched six pass breakups and three interceptions, both at least tied for the team lead. No other defensive back has notched an interception this year, but safety Anthony Harris has piled up 62 tackles already. This is the unit hit the hardest by injuries with four guys on the IR, including safety George Iloka, who missed all of 2019 as well as most of this season.

Match up

If the Vikings can’t get pressure on Teddy, this could be another long day on that side of the ball. The Panthers have so many guys who can get open, and Teddy will find them with enough time. This might also be the game we see Teddy really sling it, as I’m sure he’ll want to put on a show for the fans in Minnesota. Minnesota’s banged up defense is in for a challenge on Sunday.