CHARLOTTE - The NFL is a fourth-quarter league.
No team knows that better than the Minnesota Vikings (2-3).
They found themselves on the right side of the end-of-game dramatics on Sunday, kicking a game-winning field goal as time expired to beat Detroit at home.
But in Minnesota's three losses, they...
-Had the ball at the 26-yard line with a chance to tie Cleveland as time expired (14-7),
-Missed a 37-yard field goal to win as time expired at Arizona (34-33),
-Kicked a tying field goal as time expired, then fumbled in plus territory in overtime, allowing Cincinnati to hit a game-winning field goal (27-24).
The Vikings have been through the pressure situations and could easily be 5-0 or they could be 1-4.
So let's dive into what the Vikings are bringing to Charlotte.
Kirk Cousins is in his fourth season in Minnesota as he looks to improve on his 27-24-1 overall record as a Viking.
Cousins currently sits 11th in the NFL with a 103.7 passer rating, throwing for ten touchdowns with just two interceptions and 279.2 passing yards per game.
He's been sacked nine times in five games, tied for ninth-fewest in the NFL.
NO DALVIN COOK?
Dalvin Cook, one of the league's top running backs over the last few years, has been nursing an ankle injury that initially kept him out of the Week 3 win against Seattle.
He returned to little effect against Cleveland in Week 4 and was inactive again against the Lions on Sunday. He had been listed as questionable heading into the game, so his status will be something to track throughout the week.
Alexander Mattison has gotten a ton of run in Cook's absence. He and Tennessee's Derrick Henry are the only two players with 30+ touches in two or more games this season. Mattison rushed for 112 yards in Week 3 and added 153 scrimmage yards against the Lions.
Former LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson has flown even higher in his second year in the league.
After leading all rookies with 1400 receiving yards in 2020, Jefferson has 471 receiving yards on 33 catches in 2021, ranking sixth in the NFL this season.
Jefferson's reception percentage of 73.3 currently ranks sixth among qualified wide receivers.
POROUS AGAINST THE RUN?
Minnesota ranks 22nd in run defense with 130.0 yards allowed per game. Teams are averaging 4.74 yards per rush (29th) and 20.8 first downs per game (15th) against the Vikings.
Conversely, the Vikings' pass defense has been Top 10 in the NFL, especially when they get to the quarterback. Minnesota ranks second in the league with 17 sacks and has 86 pressures, according to PFF.
Using EPA (Expected Points Added) metrics, the Vikings have a 7.53 total defensive pass EPA (5th) on all pass plays and a 33.17 pass sack EPA (2nd) on sack plays.
Danielle Hunter has 6.0 sacks and nine QB hits, tied for fourth in the league.
The Panthers are 6-9 all-time against the Vikings, with a 3-2 record at home and 3-7 record on the road.