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Panthers vs Vikings offensive preview: Don’t expect fireworks on Sunday

Skol’s defense isn’t as mighty as it once was, but it still ain’t no picnic

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers (3-2) welcome the Minnesota Vikings (2-3) to town on Sunday. The two teams both sit in the middle-of-the-pack at the moment, each with their own tales of inconsistency. Let’s take a deeper dive into the Panthers offense and Vikings defense.

Panthers offense

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Yards per game: 363.4 (17th)
Pass yards per game: 255.6 (13th)
Rush yards per game: 107.8 (18th)
Points per game: 23 (17th)

The Panthers have been regressing in most of the above offensive categories over the last three weeks. This is not an encouraging sign. The wins over the hapless Jets and Texans seemed to have painted an inaccurate picture and quarterback Sam Darnold had an awful game on Sunday against the Eagles.

Still, the passing game remains in the top 15 in the league, and when Darnold is on it’s quite fun to watch. Even the methodical short passes to DJ Moore and others are exciting when Darnold is in a good rhythm. It’s just tough to tell when we’re going to see that.

Which Darnold will we get? It would help to have star running back Christian McCaffrey back in the lineup and that’s a possibility this week. McCaffrey is currently listed as questionable. If he comes back, that takes pressure off everyone, including Darnold, Moore and Robby Anderson.

On the plus side, it looks like tackle Cameron Erving is returning to the lineup after a one-week absence, while guard Pat Elflein has been designated to return from injured reserve.

Vikings defense

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Yards per game: 368.8 (17th)
Pass yards per game: 238.8 (13th)
Rush yards per game: 130 (22nd)
Points per game: 21.8 (9th)
Turnovers: 4 (25th)

The Panthers might not have the finest day against the Vikings defense on Sunday. In three of their five games this season, the Vikings allowed 17 or less points. Their rush defense is a little bit below-average this season and this could be the key to Darnold’s success, if Chubba Hubbard and (hopefully) McCaffrey can pound the rock. Hubbard had his first 100-yard game on Sunday, an encouraging sign.

But the Vikings 238 pass yards allowed per game will present a challenge to Darnold. I’m not foreseeing a big day out of the quarterback this Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

Overall match-up

Overall I think we’re about to see a long, tough, boring slog for both offenses. Both defenses are capable with Carolina’s defense currently the better of the two. I think we’ll see something like a 24-21 game. Which team ends up with the 24 points is anyone’s guess.