Sunday's Vikings-Panthers game is nothing short of an elimination game for Minnesota. Losing to the Cowboys last weekend removed all margin of error for the Vikings, who may need to run the table over their final six games to reach the playoffs. Losing to the Panthers would eliminate them from the playoff conversation for good.
They're going to have to play at a high level to win this one, particularly with Irv Smith Jr. and Adam Thielen out. The Vikings should still be able to put up points on this Panthers defense via Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson, but they'll have to account for elite edge rusher Brian Burns. On the other side of the ball, Teddy Bridgewater shouldn't have too much trouble sustaining drives against his old team.
For your pregame reading, check out my piece on why the Vikings have a workload problem with Cook and Jefferson. With Thielen out for this game, the Vikings have no excuse not to feed Jefferson a steady diet of targets.
Brett Jones will start at right guard for the Vikings for a second straight week due to Ezra Cleveland's ankle injury. With Thielen and Smith out, expect larger roles for Chad Beebe, Bisi Johnson, Kyle Rudolph, and Tyler Conklin. It'll also be interesting to see if Tajae Sharpe is active and part of the offense.
Inactive lists for both teams will come out at 10:30 a.m. central.
Follow me on Twitter for updates and commentary from inside the stadium. You can also follow along with our live blog.
Location: U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN
Fans allowed: 250 (family members of players, mostly)
Game Time: 12:00 p.m. CT
Betting Line: Vikings -3 (O/U 50)
TV Channel: FOX (Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma, Shannon Spake)
Radio: 100.3 KFAN (Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, Ben Leber, Greg Coleman)
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