Vikings Playmakers In, Prominent Panther Out for MIN-CAR

Nov 29, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers linebacker Jeremy Chinn (21) at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Since the point spread hit sportsbooks after Week 5, the line for the Week 6 game between the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers has drifted purple.

Out of the gate, the Panthers were favored to win over the Vikings by a single point. Now, that spread is in the Vikings column to the tune of 2.5 points.

Christian McCaffrey returning to action for the first time in a few weeks was the working theory from the moment Carolina opted to rest the otherworldly tailback during its game with the Philadelphia Eagles. Of course, he’d be ready for the Vikings. That was the cynical takeaway for some fans and VikingsTerritory. We got that wrong.

Onward. McCaffrey has not practiced at all this week, signaling yet another absence in Week 6. That was confirmed on Friday by Ian Rapoport:

And the Vikings are fine and dandy with that nugget of news. McCaffrey is a gamewrecker – fantasy football players can attest – and when he’s out, the offense is a different animal. It really isn’t even an animal; it’s like an insect. McCaffrey commands so many touches on a given Sunday, that when he is out, it’s like reading a book without verbs. In that regard, the Vikings dodged a bullet, marking the second time in consecutive years Minnesota has squared off against the Panthers without McCaffrey.

Last year, Minnesota was barely triumphant. Carolina scored two defensive touchdowns – the same rookie scored twice – but the Vikings outlasted the Panthers 28-27. In your memory banks, this was the Chad Beebe redemption game. Beebe infamously fumbled a punt late in the contest, causing an assured-destruction feeling for Vikings fans. But Beebe made up for it. Quarterback Kirk Cousins found Beebe in the back of the endzone in the 4th Quarter for a game-winning transaction.

When the Vikings see the Panthers this time, Minnesota will be healthier. Only TE Ben Ellefson and NT Michael Pierce are declared out for the Week 6 bout.

During the last few days, playmakers like Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson mysteriously practiced very little and wound up on the injury report. The anxiety wasn’t too dreadful for the impact on Sunday’s game, but there was a twinge of fear carrying “what if they can’t go?” reservations.

You can put those nerves to rest.

Cook, Thielen, and Jefferson are nonexistent on the final injury report, firmly implying all men are good to go for a rather important showdown in North Carolina.

If the Vikings win – boom – they’re 3-3 and waltzing into the bye week in good spirits ready to play Halloween football versus the Dallas Cowboys in a couple of weeks. Should like Vikings lose, well, that’s probably a wrap on their 2021 postseason plans. It is not impossible to unearth from a 2-4 hole, but the chances are slim as hell when the teams on the docket include the Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, and Green Bay Packers. If the Vikings can’t beat the McCaffrey-less Panthers, they ain’t consistently beating teams with Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, and Aaron Rodgers.

All in all, the Vikings received good news for the sheer sake of winning with the final injury reports. The purple playmakers are ready. Perhaps the best running back in the world from Carolina is not.

The Vikings own the all-time record in the head-to-head series over the Panthers 9-6.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).