vs-panthers

Minnesota breathed a sigh of relief last week when kicker Greg Joseph’s 54-yard field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired in the Vikings’ 19-17 win over Detroit.

Joseph saved the team from a 1-4 start.

The Vikings (2-3) head to Carolina (3-2) for one more battle before heading into their bye week. Entering a week-long vacation would feel a lot better with a .500 record, especially considering what awaits Minnesota after the break.

Head coach Mike Zimmer’s squad will host Dallas (4-1), then hit the road for games against Baltimore (4-1) and the Los Angeles Chargers (4-1) before its first rivalry meeting of the season with Green Bay (4-1) at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Four straight games against teams with four wins in five tries.

Yikes.

This week, the Vikings are 2 1/2-point road favorites against the Panthers, according to Sports Line. Carolina star running back Christian McCaffrey didn't practice all week and was officially ruled out Friday. Minnesota gets a big boost in the likely return of its star runner Dalvin Cook, has been sidelined for two of the team’s five games.

If we’ve learned anything about this Vikings team, the game will likely be a close one.

Below are this week’s predictions from around the web. (Note: These predictions were made before McCaffrey was officially ruled out.)

Barry Wilner of the Associated Press: Panthers 20, Vikings 19.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times: Vikings 24, Panthers 21. “The Vikings should be welcoming back Dalvin Cook, and it’s easier to trust Kirk Cousins than Sam Darnold at this point.”

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal: Vikings 27, Panthers 23. “The Vikings are the new Seahawks: They don't play normal games. A trip to Carolina should continue the trend in a contest between two teams creeping toward the NFL's middle. The Panthers' offensive line looks a little worse each week, and the excellent Vikings pass-rush tandem of Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen should create some of the fumbles, sacks and interceptions marring Sam Darnold's year. Minnesota's zone-running scheme also can slow down The Snow Patrol's blitz package, with Carolina looking soft on the edges in back-to-back weeks.”

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com: Vikings 25, Panthers 21. “The Vikings will be on the road for the first time since Week 2. They won two of three home games, but they haven't exactly lit it up. Carolina lost a tough one at home to the Eagles last week. The matchup of the Minnesota offense against the Carolina defense will decide this, and I think the Vikings will get the best of it.”

John Breech of CBSSports.com: Vikings 22, Panthers 19.

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com: Panthers 24, Vikings 17. “What a pair of tales between these two teams. The Vikings and Panthers both dominated at minimum 75 percent of their respective games in Week 5. The Vikings nearly blew theirs by coughing up a fumble and letting the Lions score and hit a two-point conversion before finding a miracle field goal. The Panthers had the Eagles in a headlock for roughly 55 minutes but Sam Darnold and the offense couldn't do enough/not do enough dumb stuff to generate a two-score lead. This game basically boils down to whether or not the Vikes can generate enough pressure on Darnold. But the possible return of Christian McCaffrey lingers because he makes the Carolina offense substantially better by virtue of how they set him up in Darnold's progressions. If he's back Carolina wins this game.”

Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com: Vikings 24, Panthers 20. “The Vikings defense is much better than the one Carolina couldn't crack last week, and their pass rush could be a problem for Sam Darnold, as he's not immune to making bad decisions when under pressure.”

Jordan Dajani of CBSSports.com: Panthers 23, Vikings 20.

Jonathan Jones of CBSSports.com: Vikings.

Bill Bender of the Sporting News: Vikings 25, Panthers 22. “Which quarterback do you trust more? Sam Darnold has six TD passes and six interceptions. Kirk Cousins has 10 TDs and two interceptions. Running backs Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey might return for this one, but it comes down to which quarterback can avoid that costly mistake.”

Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News: Vikings 23, Panthers 20. “The Vikings are a little underrated at 2-3 and the Panthers have proved to be inflated at 3-2. Minnesota will do what's needed to beat Carolina; stick with the run and create favorable passing opportunities off that to help neutralize a strong pass rush. Let's hope we get a healthy rushing duel between Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey, but eventually it comes down to which QB will be less efficient and make more mistakes between Kirk Cousins and Sam Darnold. Trust in Cousins not forcing the ball downfield as much as Darnold.”

The Miami Herald’s Greg Cote: Panthers 24, Vikings 20. “Call it a mini-upset, albeit with the home team plus one. Carolina expects to have RB Christian McCaffrey back from a hamstring — that’s big; Cats are 0-2 without him — and should bounce back from consecutive one-score losses. Balancing McCaffrey’s return, Panthers’ defense is top three in league in fewest points and yards allowed.”

Gary Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Panthers 19, Vikings 17.

Don Brennan of the Toronto Sun: Vikings 24, Panthers 20.

Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Bay Area: Vikings 23, Panthers 20. “Wow. The oddsmakers don’t think much of the Panthers, who suddenly are leaking oil after back-to-back losses. Sam Darnold is a different quarterback when he is playing from behind. Kirk Cousins and Co. jump out to an early lead and the Panthers can’t battle back.”

Ben Rolfe of Pro Football Network: Panthers 24, Vikings 23. Or is it Vikings 27, Panthers 24? Well, unless it’s a tie, he’s going to have picked the winner correctly.

Philly Voice’s Jimmy Kempski: Vikings.

Ken Schott of The Daily Gazette: Panthers 20, Vikings 17.

Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith and Mike Florio: MDS – Vikings 24, Panthers 20; Florio – Vikings 27, Panthers 21.

Ross Jackson and Cameron LaFontaine of Locked On Podcast: Jackson – Vikings 21, Panthers 18; LaFontaine – Vikings 24, Panthers 20.

Joe DiTullio and Cecil J. Walker III of The Game Haus: DiTullio – Vikings; Walker – Vikings.

Bleacher Report staff: Panthers 24, Vikings 21.

All four writers at Athlon Sports think the Panthers will win.

Five of eight analysts at CBSSports.com take the Vikings to win.

Only one of seven writers at USA Today -- Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz -- predict a Vikings victory.

Four of five analysts at SI.com are picking the Vikings.

Five of 10 analysts at ESPN pick the Vikings.