Here's a key matchup to watch in Sunday's Vikings-Panthers game.
Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe vs. Panthers LBs
Shiancoe has come out of a mini-slump the past two games, making nine catches for 90 yards and a touchdown after having only eight catches combined in the three games before that. Just as important, Christian Ponder targeted him eight times, proving that he is a focal part of the passing game with the struggles the wide receivers have had.
That trend will need to continue this week against the Panthers. The Panthers defense has struggled covering opposing tight ends, allowing them to average 69.3 receiving yards per game. With the injuries to their two best linebackers, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, the Panthers have struggled to cover tight ends in space. Replacements Dan Connor and Jason Williams lack the athleticism to keep up.
Establishing Adrian Peterson in the running game will open up the holes in the middle of the field and allow Shiancoe to be isolated with linebackers like Connor in space. If the Vikings gets those kinds of matchups, they need try and exploit them. Shiancoe has proven over the last two games that he can be a weapon in the passing game. Ponder should look his way early and often.