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Minnesota Vikings 2016 Schedule Preview: Carolina Panthers

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Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We’re moving right along to Week 3 of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2016 schedule in our series of previews, which means that we’re taking a look at the defending NFC Champions, the Carolina Panthers. They’re led by the league MVP in quarterback Cam Newton and started last season on a 14-game winning streak before ultimately finishing 15-1. Unfortunately for them, that led to a Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos in February, but they’re among the favorites to make a return trip to the big game this season.

Our friends over at Cat Scratch Reader have put together this preview of the Panthers and what they see for them this season. They also have their preview of us up over at their site if you want to drop by their comments section and respectfully make any inquiries about their club for this match-up.

Date and Time of Game

25 September 2016, 12:00 PM Central, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina (WOOOOOOOO!)

Notable free agent additions

  • DT Paul Soliai - Expected to back-up Star Lotulelei
  • C/OG Gino Gradkowski - versatile back-up for the interior o-line
  • P Mike Scifres - coming off a leg injury

Notable free agent departures

  • CB Josh Norman - Panthers rescinded franchise tag and he signed with the Redskins
  • DE Jared Allen - retirement
  • CB Charles Tillman - he is still a free agent as he heals from an ACL injury; says if he plays again it will be for the Panthers only
  • P Brad Nortman - Jaguars overpaid for his services
  • S Roman Harper - Panthers did not offer; now back in New Orleans

Trades

Ha! As if Dave Gettleman would trade a player away. He did make a draft pick trade to move up in the draft at one point.

Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies

  • DT Vernon Butler - Should be in the DT rotation at some point
  • One of the rookie CBs (James Bradberry, Darryl Worley, Zack Sanchez) should get significant snaps if not start; currently Bradberry has the edge

Biggest offseason addition

At 345 lbs that would be Soliai. Impact-wise the Panthers didn’t add a veteran starter besides the punter.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp

The return of WR Kelvin Benjamin. Though statistically the Panthers didn’t seem to miss Benjamin don’t tell Cam Newton that. Benjamin’s 73 catches for 1,003 yards and 9 TDs as a rookie in 2014 was sorely missed at times in 2015.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp

WR Devin Funchess has turned heads at OTAs with his maturity (he’s only 22), route running and hands. While the Panthers top 3 WRs (Benjamin, Ginn and Brown) can certainly make great catches, all three are prone to drops. If Funchess can prove to be more reliable he can garner more targets and challenge as the Panthers #2 WR.

Notable injuries heading into training camp

  • RB Jonathan Stewart appears to still have issues from his leg injury in SB50. Though he is expected to be 100% by TC we will be keeping an eye on him.
  • CB Bene Benwikere and WR Kelvin Benjamin have been declared 100% from their 2015 season ending injuries.