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How good is the Carolina Panthers defense?

Sep 25, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) argues a no call in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Panthers 22-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers have some impressive rankings, but they may not be quite the challenge for the Minnesota Vikings that their raw numbers suggest.

Ron Rivera’s team enters Sunday’s matchup with the Vikings in sixth place in total yards allowed and 10th in points allowed. However, the Panthers’ numbers may be inflated by very good performances against very bad offenses.

They allowed a total of nine points to the 49ers, Bills and Bucs, But against teams with more comparable offenses to the Vikings, they were much less effective, gaving up 65 points in two games against the Saints, 30 to the Patriots and 28 to the Eagles.

Two weeks ago, Josh McCown and the New York Jets dropped 27 points and 391 yards on Carolina. The Panthers gave up several huge plays, including 30-yard and 54-yard touchdown pass.

Overall, the Panthers’ pass defense has relied entirely upon its pass rush to have success. They rank fourth in sack percentage (sacks vs. dropbacks) but have also given up 18 touchdowns to only five interceptions and an opponent quarterback rating of 94.6.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said that success for the Panthers’ defense starts with the blitz and run stuffing, but the Vikings may be able to take advantage of blitzes.

“They’re very high on blitz percentage on first, second, and third downs, so they pressure the quarterback,” Zimmer said. “[Luke] Kuechly and [Thomas] Davis they run around, their two inside tackles are hard to move off the ball and the ends are very good pass rushers.”

Lining up Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs in the slot will create massive mismatches with plenty of open field to work with. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a play like this one, a quick slant by the Jets that went for 42 yards.

Zimmer pointed out that the Panthers use safety Kurt Coleman in the box and press with the corners. Both of those things would seem to benefit the Vikings’ top receivers. Carolina’s cornerbacks do not rate highly by Pro Football Focus metrics. James Bradberry ranks 94th, Daryl Worley is 75th and Captain Munnerlyn is 90th.

One explanation for their good overall numbers is that the Panthers rank second in the NFL in time of possession. On offense, Carolina has the fourth most rushing plays in the league and they have started using short passes more often. Quarterback Cam Newton averages 11.0 yards per completion, the lowest mark of his career.

Still there are some metrics which favor the Panthers’ defense. Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which adjusts yards for opponent strength, ranks them eighth against the pass and fifth versus the run. But the Football Outsiders’ numbers also rank Carolina 23rd against teams’ No. 1 receivers (and the Vikings have two of those).

Which defense will show up against the Vikings? The odds lean more toward the one we saw last week when they allowed 31 points to the Saints – that’s if Case Keenum handles the blitz.

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  • Gordon Guffey

    Do the Panthers not play in the same division as the Rams~Saints~49ers ~ ???? All 4 of these teams have benefited from weak schedule based off last years standings and all 4 teams including the Panthers have lost games vs good teams ~ Look at the wonderful Eagles who lose to a 6~6 Seahawk ~ A Seahawk team the Falcons beat two week ago ~ Even some good teams last year when the schedule was set up could have been weakened by FA or injuries ~

    I know I may be off on some of this but its the way I remember them doing the schedule back when I use to keep up with all of these crazy stats and fuss about site like PPF and such ~ I’m more in line with what Zimmer and Spielman have to say about such sites ~ Thats why they play the games ~ LOL

    I’m not sold on the Panther defense ~ I am sold on the Vikings OL however ~ That might change after Sunday ~ I’ll wait and see ~

  • Gordon Guffey

    Latavius Murray credits the bye week for his second-half improvement
    Posted by Michael David Smith on December 7, 2017, 8:28 AM EST
    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2017/12/07/latavius-murray-credits-the-bye-week-for-his-second-half-improvement/

  • Gordon Guffey

    If the Vikings win this game, they’ll post six straight road wins in a single season for the first time in franchise history. If Keenum records a passer rating of 100 or more, it will be the fifth straight game he has done that. That will break the team record he now shares with Brett Favre (2009) and Daunte Culpepper (2004).

    http://www.startribune.com/sports/vikings/access-vikings/

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  • Theguds

    My money’s on Keenum eating that blitz up, where are you putting your money Coller?

    • Dwight Maxwell

      You lost!

      • Theguds

        :)) And it surely wasn’t because Carolina played good game. Vikings beat themselves.

        • Dwight Maxwell

          Carolina’s defense played lights out most of the game. As they say a win is a win! and you lost!

          • Shawn

            Dwight Maxwell…Vikes are going to the post season…hope you enjoyed your little super bowl playoff game against MN today…they aren’t going anywhere

          • Dwight Maxwell

            Uhhh! Carolina are now tied with first play in the NFC South. A game a head of the Falcons and the Seattle as far as playoffs go. You all are not even the top seed in the NFC anymore because you lost!

  • Finchy74

    On paper, this should be a comfortable Vikings victory. However, Carolina is fighting for their playoff lives. Would not shock me if this is a closer game than expected.

  • cka2nd

    Don’t forget that Murray and McKinnon have been picking up the blitz on a consistent basis. That’ll help, along with Shurmer’s two-TE and even two-TE/two-RB formations.

  • Joetomic

    This game has blowout written all over it. Their defense isn’t good enough and our defense could pitch a shutout.





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