Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
Time: NOON CT (FOX)
Spread: CAR -7.5
M/L: CAR -300, MIN +250
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Carolina Panthers rebounded last week with a 46-27 victory over the San Francisco 49ers after falling in Week 1 21-20 to the Denver Broncos. The Panthers will try to keep the home cooking going after last week in hosting Minnesota in a Week 3 matchup that will air at Noon (Central) on FOX. NFL oddsmakers are favoring Cam Newton and the Panthers by 7.5 points in the game.
And Newton has been fairly sensational thus far. Last week, he threw 24 of 40 for 353 yards and four TDs, while throwing one interception and incurring one sack (for no loss). Greg Olsen had another big game from the TE spot with five catches for 122 yards and a TD.
Kelvin Benjamin had 108 yards and two TDs. Ted Ginn Jr. also got in on the act with a 52-yard catch that made him the No. 3 receiver of the day. Ginn also rushed for five yards on one touch. But it was Fozzy Whittaker who saved the day in the backfield with 100 yards on 16 carries.
The Panthers also got 37 yards from Newton on his six attempts, but Carolina failed to score a rushing TD.
Newton is now in his sixth NFL season and last week was a nice bounce-back after his dreadful Week 1 game against Denver which saw the former Auburn Tiger throw just 18 of 33 for 194 yards with an interception. Newton threw for 3,837 yards last season with a 59.8 percent completion ratio, but getting that mark over 60 has to be an incentive for the talented 27-year-old.
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Cam Newton’s 10 interceptions in 2015 were a career low, so further improvement on that would have been a nice token but after throwing two through two weeks, that is far from guaranteed. Newton posted a passer rating of 99.4 last season, the highest of his career by a considerable margin.
Improving on last season begins with the completion percentage, but Newton is already getting good yardage out of his passers. It is hardly nitpicking though to ask a top-tier NFL quarterback to complete 60 percent of his passes, and that is something Newton has not done since 2013.
The Vikings are 2-0 this season after upending the Green Bay Packers last week and knocking off the Tennessee Titans in Week 1. The Sam Bradford trade appears to be paying off. Bradford threw for 286 yards and two TDs last week, while throwing no interceptions. He was sacked four times for a total loss of 32 yards.
But Stefon Diggs had a phenomenal week catching the football. Diggs had 182 yards on nine catches with a TD, hauling in all but two of his targeted passes. Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph combined for another 72 yards and seven catches. Bradford has targets of course, it is just a matter of making good decisions and redeeming the Vikes’ chances after losing Teddy Bridgewater just prior to the start of the season. Bradford, too, is battling a hand injury, but it does not appear to be that serious.
The big story for the Vikings is now that they are without their star running back Adrian Peterson for the next three-to-four months as he recovers from a meniscus tear in his right knee. Teams typically struggle when you smudge out their starting QB and No. 1 running back.
Minnesota will be no different.
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Bradford did mark a notable improvement from aged journeyman Shaun Hill who started in Week 1. The question is whether the seventh-year QB from Oklahoma can really maintain it. He threw for 3,725 yards last season in Philadelphia with a 65 percent completion ratio, but he had 14 interceptions with just 19 TDs. That is the black mark on Bradford. With no Peterson there to bail him out, his task is only that much more difficult.
Bradford has thrown 52 interceptions while only having been a full-time starter for three NFL seasons. He also had six fumbles last season, something that has not even begun to rear its ugly head for the Vikes. Minnesota was fortunate to come out of the gates 2-0, but that perfect record comes to an end against a tough Panthers team in its own venue.