Key matchups to watch - CAR vs MIN

What are the key matchups between the Panthers and Vikings? Find out Inside!

NT Pat Williams has been outstanding for two games in a row, meaning C Jeff Mitchell likely will have his work cut out for him in trying to stop the 6-3, 317-pound force. Williams has spent the past two games playing vertically, something he didn't do when the Vikings were using a 4-3 defense, and that could make for a long day for Mitchell.

* * *

CB Fred Smoot was moved to shadow Packers WR Donald Driver for the entire second half last Sunday, meaning wherever Driver went so did Smoot. The Vikings could stick with that Sunday against Steve Smith, who leads the Panthers with 39 receptions for 596 yards and seven touchdowns.

* * *

RT Mike Rosenthal and LT Bryant McKinnie will have their work cut out for them, facing LDE Julius Peppers and RDE Mike Rucker, respectively. McKinnie is having perhaps his best season and will get a real test protecting Daunte Culpepper's blind side. Rucker leads Carolina with 3.5 sacks and 18 quarterback pressures. Peppers has only one sack but is second on the team with 11 pressures.

* * *

Vikings TE Jermaine Wiggins vs. Panthers LBs Will Witherspoon and Brandon Short -- Wiggins has become Duante Culpepper's favorite target this year and has 16 catches in the past two games. Wiggins played two seasons for the Panthers and would like nothing better than to prove to his old team that it should have used him more as a receiver. Witherspoon has struggled in recent weeks since injuring his knee. He gave up an 86-yard pass to tight end Marcus Pollard that could have cost his team the game had safety Mike Minter not run down Pollard before he got to the end zone and Carolina's defense forced a Lions field goal.

* * *

INJURY IMPACT

The bye week apparently did the Carolina Panthers a world of good.

For the first time in recent memory, all 53 players on the active roster practiced for the Panthers on Wednesday.

And while wide receiver Keary Colbert (ankle), running back DeShaun Foster (knee) and linebacker Dan Morgan (shoulder) are listed as questionable, they are expected to play.

LB Dontarrious Thomas, who suffered a bruised right shoulder last week in practice and missed last Sunday's game, was able to practice for a second consecutive day.

LB Napoleon Harris returned to practice Thursday after having fluid drained from his right knee Tuesday. Harris suffered a torn meniscus cartilage in the knee last year with Oakland. Acquired in the Randy Moss trade, Harris has lost his job as the starting strongside linebacker to Keith Newman.

Panther Insider Top Stories