The Carolina Panthers will travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings in an interesting Week 12 matchup. Both teams are technically still in the playoff hunt but they would need a lot of help to get in. That essentially makes this a must-win game for the two four-win teams. The Panthers are coming off a shutout victory against the Detroit Lions last week. The Carolina defense dominated Detroit making backup quarterback P.J. Walker's job a lot easier. The Vikings are coming off of a three-point loss to the Dallas Cowboys. It's safe to say that the season has not gone the way that either franchise would have liked. Time is running out to right the ship. The Panthers will need a boost from their offense in this game as they cannot expect another shutout from their defense.
Here are our three keys to the game for the Panthers' offense:
Get playmakers involved early and often
The Panthers will likely be without All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey for yet another week. Carolina has no shortage of playmakers, however. DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and Curtis Samuel make up arguably the league's most talented trio of wide receivers. No. 2 running back Mike Davis is no slouch either. Last week Walker did an excellent job of getting his playmakers the ball early. Starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is back in action just in time to face his former team. He will need to distribute the ball to his talented pass-catchers all game long in order to keep up with the high-scoring Minnesota offense. Moore and Anderson can do wonders for an offense with the ball after the catch. All Teddy has to do is hit his receivers on quick routes and let them do the rest.
Maintain an early lead
It's no secret that the Vikings love to run the ball. Dalvin Cook is the No. 2 leading rusher in the NFL trailing only Derrick Henry. The Panthers' defense has struggled to defend the run this season. The offense can help out a lot by taking a lead early on. Getting off to a 10-0 or 14-3 type of start could go a long way in determining if the Panthers leave Minnesota with a victory or not. If they can put the Vikings in a position that they are uncomfortable with, then they might be able to force a mistake or two. If the Panthers win the opening coin toss they should elect to receive the ball. Scoring touchdowns rather than field goals is the other key that goes along with this.
Use Mike Davis on the perimeter
Mike Davis got off to an amazing start when he first took over for the injured Christian McCaffrey but he has cooled off in recent weeks. I think the main reason for this is that the Panthers have gone away from utilizing him as a receiver and on outside runs. The 5-foot-9 220-pounder fits the body type of a running back that runs North and South. However, he is actually most effective when he can get outside of the tackles and make defenders miss with his juke moves. Carolina has seemed to change their running scheme to a more traditional straight up-the-middle type of offense since the prolonged absence of McCaffrey. It's time to get back to utilizing Davis as a pass-catcher. Davis has enough speed and elusiveness to break off long runs. Carolina just needs to adjust their scheme to get him the ball in open space.
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