A month ago, if you were to look at the matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and the Carolina Panthers, from the offensive side, there would seem to be two clear storylines – the battle between quarterbacks Cam Newton and Teddy Bridgewater and the comparative stats put up by running backs Adrian Peterson and Jonathan Stewart.
Instead, only Newton will be on the field today when the Vikings and Panthers meet. Bridgewater is out for the 2016 season at a minimum. Peterson is out for at least a couple months, although there remains a glimmer of hope that if his rehab goes better than expected he could be back in December if the Vikings are making a playoff push. Stewart has been ruled out for Carolina on Sunday.
As a result, the running back battle that will be going on will be between newbie starters Jerick McKinnon and Cameron Artis-Payne.
To date, McKinnon has just three carries for eight yards through the first two games. Artis-Payne has yet to have a rushing attempt or a reception.
The backups have seen more action than the starters. Matt Asiata has 10 carries for 27 yards and Fozzy Whittaker has 19 carries for 113 yards.
For two offenses that have made a reputation for themselves by their acumen as a rushing offense, both are coming into today’s game with little tangible experience with the starting running backs expected to continue the tradition.
It’s a little early in the season for teams to be changing on the fly like the Vikings are and, to a lesser extent, the Panthers, but the team that runs the ball better will likely win. But, for now, we’re not sure who will have the breakout game needed to provide the boost to his team’s run game.
VIKINGS-PANTHERS BY THE NUMBERS
- The Vikings have the 28th-ranked offense (32nd rushing, 20th passing) and the 5th-ranked defense (6th rushing, 10th passing).
- Carolina has the 3rd-ranked offense (1st rushing, 15th passing) and the 7th-ranked defense (17th rushing, 7th passing).
- Minnesota is averaging 293 yards a game on offense (245 passing, 48 rushing). Carolina is averaging 431 yards a game (265 passing, 166 rushing).
- The Vikings are allowing 290 yards a game (216 passing, 74 rushing). The Panthers are allowing 305 yards a game (198 passing, 97 rushing).
- The Vikings are second in takeaway-giveaway ratio at plus-5 (six takeaways, one giveaway). The Panthers are tied for 8th at plus-1 (six takeaways, five giveaways).
- The only Vikings turnover came on a Packers fumble last week that was briefly recovered by safety Andrew Sendejo, who was subsequently stripped of the ball and it went to Green Bay. The offense has yet to turn the ball over.
- The Vikings are 29th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on just one of four possessions (25 percent). The Panthers are 13th at 62.5 percent (five touchdowns on eight possessions).
- Minnesota is tied for 21st in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on four of six opposing possessions (66.7 percent). Carolina is tied for fifth at 40 percent (two touchdowns on five possessions).
- The Vikings are 21st in third-down offense, converting 10 of 28 third-down opportunities. The Panthers are third at 53.3 percent, making good on 16 of 30 chances.
- The Minnesota defense has been brutal on third downs, allowing conversions on 14 of 27 opportunities (51.9 percent), which ties them for 30th in the league. The Carolina defense is 11th at 37 percent (9 of 24).
- The Vikings are best in the league in first-down defense, allowing just 3.09 yards per play.
- Minnesota is first in average starting position following kickoffs, with an average start at the 34.7-yard line – more than eight yards better than any other team in the league. Carolina is fifth with an averaging starting point of the 25.3-yard line.
- The Vikings haven’t had a 300-yard passing game yet this season. Cam Newton has one.
- Neither the Vikings nor Panthers have allowed a 300-yard passer.
- The Vikings have two 100-yard receiving games, both from Stefon Diggs. The Panthers also have two – one from Kelvin Benjamin and one from Greg Olsen.
- Neither team has allowed a 100-yard receiver.
- Whittaker has the only 100-yard rushing game for either team. There have only been seven 100-yard rushing games in the NFL through the first two weeks.
- Because he has only played in one game, Sam Bradford is only at the top of the league in comparative percentages instead of attempts, completions and yards. He is third in completion percentage (71 percent), second in average gain per pass (9.23 yards) and second in passer rating (121.2).
- Newton is tied for 16th in pass attempts (73), tied for 20th in completions (42), 29th in completion percentage (57.5), 16th in passing yards (547), tied for second in touchdown passes (5), tied for 20th in interceptions (2), and 17th in passer rating (92.7).
- Bradford didn’t have enough passes to qualify for the league lead in fourth-quarter passing, but Shaun Hill is 14th with a rating of 93.2. Newton is 23rd with a passer rating of 71.6
- Newton is seventh in third-down passer rating at 118.0. Hill is 12th with a rating of 98.3.
- Whittaker is tied for 17th in rushing with 113 yards. Peterson is 46th with 50 yards, which is fewer than three quarterbacks, including Newton.
- Diggs is second in the league in receptions with 16. Benjamin is tied for seventh with 13, Olsen is tied for 13th with 12.
- Diggs leads the NFL with 285 receiving yards. Benjamin is ninth with 199 yards. Olsen is 11th with 195 yards.
- Benjamin is third in third-down receptions with six. Adam Thielen is tied for six place with five. Tight ends Olsen and Kyle Rudolph, as well as Diggs, are tied for 14th with four.
- Carolina kicker Graham Gano is tied for first in scoring among kickers with 24 points. Blair Walsh is tied for 10th with 18 points.
- Gano is tied for the league lead with 11 touchbacks, which likely won’t be good news for Cordarrelle Patterson. Walsh is tied for 19th with five touchbacks.
- Diggs is third in yards from scrimmage with 284 yards (285 receiving, minus-1 rushing). Benjamin is 17th with 199 yards (all receiving). Olsen is 19th with 195 yards (all receiving).
- Patterson leads the league in kickoff return average at 41.0 yards. Ted Ginn is 13th with an average of 19.9 yards.
- Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph are tied for sixth in sacks with two.
- Sendejo is tied for the league lead with two fumble recoveries.