Minnesota comes in 1-3, with the remarkably dangerous sympathy card to be played. Yes, it's tragic that Adrian Peterson's son died. I won't get further into that section other than to say that, with that in hand and having benched the remarkably crappy Christian Ponder, Minnesota is a better team than they've played, and Carolina's a moody team that can't often get out of its own way.
So, matchups. Absolutely. I'll get to that. But that won't matter if you can't emotionally lift yourself as the better team this game. Minnesota has that lift this time (just, for once, it'd be great to not have a trap game or two on the season where someone dies and a backup QB lifts them to victory - I'm looking at you, Kansas City), and simply out of that, I feel like this game is somewhat hopeless.
Not unlike fellow '85 Bears alum Ron Rivera (and, like Rivera, an Eagle staffer under Andy Reid 99-02), Leslie Frazier used a lot of his bargaining chips on defense to his offense's detriment. Sharrif Floyd was a steal where he landed (though Star Lotulelei was a steal at any pick, in my opinion), and picked up CB Xavier Rhodes, a bigger press-man type player later in the round. They did grab Cordarelle Patterson as well - all three in under ten picks, which is unique - but Patterson isn't looked at as an immediate starter.
Instead, Frazier added Greg Jennings to Jerome Simpson and the young TE Kyle Rudolph as targets. And it's not incredible. That said, it got better under the more accurate Matt Cassel, who's somewhat accurate and efficient; he's also not a great playmaker. Cassel has effectively fixed one of his bigger flaws, being better in shotgun than under center, just in time for him to be around Peterson. You don't do a lot of shotgun with Peterson there.
You guys know what's going on with Peterson. Currently on a not-great team, he's still on pace for 1700 yards. He'll get his. Carolina has been pretty good stopping the run - they're currently 7th, 6th in yards/attempt; and they're 3rd in both yards and points overall. The Vikings OL is big - not surprisingly. Blue-chip Matt Kalil is the best LT Greg Hardy's faced all year, depending on how you feel about Russell Okung. Kalil replaced the slower Charlie Johnson, who's now inside at LG; Johnson's good at angles but can be overpowered. Massive RT Phil Loadholt isn't incredible, but he is what you think he is - good at run blocking with obvious limitations in speed but a massive wingspan.
So the outside rush can be contained. It's the inside, with Johnson, John Sullivan, and Brandon Fusco that can be exploited by the young DTs. Fusco has had a good start to 2013, says Profootballfocus.com. He had a bad '12, so there's room to manipulate. Obviously, this is where you start to attack Peterson, and doing so gets Luke Kuechly into the picture.
Minnesota's 29th in pass yards, but 15th in rush yards. Their rush yards/attempt go down to 22, so clearly they can be run on as well. They're 1st in takeaways, so you have to protect the ball, but if Cam Newton can't get yards upfield, there's something wrong. There should be enough room to run without just passing against their weaknesses downfield (not much secondary to speak of, and their LBs, Chad Greenway and EJ Henderson are better moving forward); they do have some rush ability with Jared Allen, who tends to do bad things to Jordan Gross, but Floyd and Bryan Robison can be contained if you execute well enough.
So, might be best to use the packaged plays to freeze the LBs, and work the middle of the field; screen game is big here, and so is playaction.
Not sure what to think, but emotionally I fear the loss. Hope it's at least a good game.