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Let's Try This Sunday Night Thing Again

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NOTE: The Packers have LOST to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 37-36 on an incredible TD catch by Mike Wallace. So, congratulations to OUR Minnesota Vikings on winning their second consecutive NFC North Championship!

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (11-2) GAME #14 CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-8)

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Date: 20 December 2009
Location: Charlotte, NC
Time: 7:15 PM CST Stadium: Bank of America Stadium
TV: NBC Know Thy Enemy: Cat Scratch Reader
Gonzo's Prediction: Vikings 24, Panthers 13
Final Score: Panthers 26, Vikings 7

The last time we waited all day for Sunday night, the results were not quite what we wanted them to be, as the Vikings put together, by far, their worst performance of the season in losing to the Arizona Cardinals. Tonight, they'll be facing off against one of the league's more disappointing clubs in the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers were the #2 seed in the NFC in last year's post-season, but that game started the downfall of Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who turned the ball over six times in that game and hasn't looked good since. Backup Matt Moore is the starter in Carolina now, and hopefully the Vikings will be able to make things tough for him.

So, how do the Vikings go about securing a victory, clinching the NFC North, and moving one step closer to a first-round playoff bye?

1) Make Carolina beat you through the air - Carolina boasts one of the NFL's better 1-2 running back punches in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. That's reflected in the fact that the Panthers have the NFL's fourth-ranked rushing offense, racking up 149.9 yards/game. However, the Carolina pass offense ranks only 28th in the NFL at 169.8 yards/game, and they're 25th in the NFL in scoring at 17.3 points/game. In addition, both of Carolina's starting offensive tackles, Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah, are on the injured reserve list. With those things being the case, there's absolutely no reason that the Minnesota front four shouldn't dominate this game against an undermanned Panther offensive line. Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Ray Edwards should have ample opportunities to make plays this evening, and the Vikings will need them to do just that.

2) Get the running game going again - Last week, the Vikings faced a very good run defense in the Cincinnati Bengals, and got Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor established early despite that. In the case of the Panthers, their run defense is almost as bad as their run offense is good. Carolina has the 26th ranked rush defense in the NFL, allowing 137.3 points/game and 4.6 yards/carry. With temperatures in Charlotte forecast to be in the upper 30s at kickoff and getting closer to the freezing point as the night progresses, a good, old-fashioned power running game would be the ideal way for Minnesota to win. . . as well as keeping us from having to test Carolina's 6th ranked pass defense too many times.

3) Be smart with the football - In a game like this, the one thing the Vikings can't afford to do is give the Panthers more possessions and more opportunities to score points. That means that Brett Favre needs to be smart with the football, and that especially means that Adrian Peterson (and, to a lesser extent, Chester Taylor) has to be extra protective of the football. The Panthers have forced 11 turnovers in their last three games. . .granted, their offense hasn't been doing anything with them, but you never want to give a lesser team more chances than they deserve. If the Vikings can keep their turnovers to a minimum. . .or, ideally, not turn the ball over at all. . .they should be able to beat the Panthers this evening.

It's about an hour and a half before kickoff time. . .the late games are going on as I type this, so there may still be some things left to be decided between now and then. However, the Vikings control their own destiny, and have controlled it all season long. They need to go out, take care of business, and not concern themselves with what the Saints did last night, or what the Packers or Eagles did this afternoon.

Here's hoping you'll be here for all the action, folks!

SKOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL VIKINGS!!!!