Monday, January 22, 2018

xavier rhodes

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The Minnesota Vikings (10-3) take on the Cincinnati Bengals (5-7) Sunday at US Bank Stadium. Kickoff is at noon (CST).

Minnesota suffered a 24-31 loss to Carolina last week. The Vikings had won eight in a row before losing to the Panthers. In order for the Vikings to re-establish their winning streak, claim victory in nine of ten games as well as clinch the division, they’ll have to conquer a Bengals team that was beat up at home by a score of 33-7 to the Chicago Bears last weekend.

On paper and in Vegas, Cincinnati is inferior to Minnesota in many ways. But, as you’ll find out, the Bengals are no pushover. They’re a dangerous team with many talented players that should not be overlooked.

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Drew Mahowald presents the 17th edition of the Skol Scale following the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 14 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

The Minnesota Vikings are facing their most important performance of the season this Sunday.

And that’s not just because it’s their next game, or whatever hardcore football guys say these days. It’s because the Vikings are being tested and their performance on this test will give a glimpse into the future.

The Vikings are coming off a devastating Week 14 loss on the road against the Carolina Panthers — which, on the surface, doesn’t appear to be such a bad thing. The Panthers are 9-4 and currently hold a playoff spot. This loss was certainly not a bad loss.

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Minnesota Vikings 24, Carolina Panthers 31

Game Recap

The Vikings came up short in their attempt to win nine games in a row Sunday. The last game of a three-game road trip resulted in Minnesota’s third loss of the season, and prevented the 10-3 Vikings from clinching the playoffs and capturing the NFC North division crown.

Offensively the Vikings failed to establish the rushing attack early. Jerick McKinnon led the team with 46 yards on seven carries (6.6 YPC) and Latavius Murray managed only 14 yards on nine carries (1.6 YPC). Quarterback Case Keenum added 40 yards on five rushes.

The Vikings had some success through the air but were doomed with turnovers at inopportune times. Keenum finished the day 27 of 44 (61%) passing for 280 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Vikings receiver Adam Thielen led Minnesota with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, but he also had two key drops in the end zone before the half. Instead of taking the lead at halftime the Vikings settled for a Kai Forbath field goal.

Stefon Diggs had six catches for 64 yards but had a ball bounce off his hands late in the game which resulted in a Carolina interception.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph had three catches for 42 yards with a touchdown but he also had issues catching the ball. Two dropped passes in the first half would have resulted in big plays for the offense. The Vikings top three pass catchers all had crucial drops throughout the game.

The Vikings defense was hurt by big plays, specifically two long runs. Carolina’s first touchdown was a 60-yard blast by Jonathan Stewart to the right of the center on third-and-one. Later in the game Cam Newton sealed the win with a 62-yard scamper up the middle of the field.

Defensive linemen Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen each collected a sack but Zimmer’s top-2 defensive unit couldn’t bounce back after giving up the long runs. Carolina rode 216 rushing yards en route to their fifth victory in six games.

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Week 14: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers

The Vikings (10-2) will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina this weekend to take on Panthers (8-4) at Bank of America Stadium. The game is Sunday at noon (CST).

The showdown will be a battle between two top-10 defenses.

Earlier in the week, we looked at how the teams stacked up by numbers. Now, let’s focus on the individual matchups that will be crucial in determining the game’s outcome.

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Drew Mahowald presents the 16th edition of the Skol Scale following the Minnesota Vikings’ gritty road win against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Minnesota Vikings are scorching hot.

The Minnesota Vikings are also the best team in the NFC.

The Minnesota Vikings control their own destiny for home-field advantage in the playoffs — through the Super Bowl.

Not bad, right?