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Game Scout: Panthers at Vikings

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Carolina Panthers (1-3) at Minnesota Vikings (1-3)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Mall of America Field, Minneapolis - TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin

*Keys to the game: The Panthers are 1-4 and have serious depth issues along their offensive line and in the secondary, but this team doesn't have the feeling of one about to come apart at the seams despite coach Ron Rivera's precarious job security. The defense is third in yards allowed, and when asked about Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said, "He's got to stop us, too." It will be interesting to see if McDermott looks to contain Peterson with an extra man in the box or leaves both safeties back in an effort to prevent big plays in what stacks up as a low-scoring game. Carolina's offense is scuffling in large part due to injuries on the offensive line, which has been compounded by QB Cam Newton holding onto the ball too long. Minnesota is allowing an average of 430.8 yards per game, including 326 through the air. The Vikings must get a strong effort out of DE Jared Allen and his linemates to protect the porous secondary.

*Matchup to watch - Panthers WR Steve Smith vs. Vikings CB Josh Robinson: Vikings coach Leslie Frazier admitted Robinson is struggling replacing Antoine Winfield's role on the inside. Smith typically lines up outside, but he'll move around the formation and would be a major mismatch working against Robinson if the Panthers put Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn outside in three-receiver sets.

*Player spotlight - Panthers LG Travelle Wharton: The 10th-year veteran has started 99 career games, and No. 100 will come Sunday as he has been thrust back into the lineup following the season-ending injury to Amini Solatolu.

*Fast facts: Frazier and Rivera were teammates on the 1985 Chicago Bears team that won the Super Bowl. ... According to ProFootballFocus.com, Robinson has allowed 91.9 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed for 377 yards.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Panthers believe they're a handful of plays away from being 4-0. While that may be true, those plays are a combination of turnovers, penalties and mistakes that continue to prevent Minnesota from getting the job done in very winnable games.

*Our pick: Vikings 20-17
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