One of several crucial NFC matchups in Week 14, the 8-4 Carolina Panthers play host to the 10-2 Minnesota Vikings. While Carolina has an opportunity to get a game closer to the South-leading Saints (a win would give them the same record, but New Orleans still owns the head-to-head tiebreaker), the Vikings are all but guaranteed a first-round bye with a win.
Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on CBS. If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch the game online or on another streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services. They cost a monthly fee but all come with a free trial, so you can watch today’s game at no cost:
CBS All Access: This service lets you watch a live stream of your local CBS channel (most markets included) for $5.99 per month. It comes with a free 7-day trial, and you can watch on your computer via the CBS website, or on your tablet or streaming device via the CBS app
FuboTV: CBS (live in at least 20 markets) is included in the “Fubo Premier” channel package, which gives you access to 70-plus channels and costs $19.99 per month for the first two months and $39.99 per month after that. It also comes with a free 7-day trial, and you can watch on your computer via the Fubo website, or on your tablet or streaming device via the FuboTV app
Not only have the Vikings reeled off eight victories in a row, but the last month has been full of really impressive displays. In their last four, they own three road wins against teams (Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins) that are ranked in the top half of Football Outsiders’ efficiency ratings, as well as a 24-7 drubbing of the team that is No. 1 overall in those same ratings–the Los Angeles Rams.
During their win streak, Minnesota has outscored opponents, 206-115. The defense is one of the best in football, but the offense finding a balance has keyed this run. Case Keenum has completed 70 percent of his throws for an efficient 7.5 yards per attempt during the winning streak, the offensive line has the best adjusted sack rate in the NFL and the running game is clicking behind Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon.
“Running the ball is important for us, not just getting yards but play-action,” Keenum said. “I think there has been good balance.”
For the Panthers, this isn’t a must-win game, but it’s certainly close. According to FiveThirtyEight’s playoff odds, Carolina will have a 75 percent shot at making the playoffs with a win on Sunday but a mere 37 percent chance with a loss.
With Devin Funchess likely seeing a lot of cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and with Greg Olsen still yet to play a full game since Week 1, the Panthers figure to lean on the running game. They’ve found a ton of success in that regard lately–first in the NFL in both rushing yards per game and yards per rush over the last three weeks–and know how important it will be not only in moving the ball, but in controlling the time of possession battle.
“We have to get our defense more rest time,” Cam Newton said.
Ultimately, this looks to have the makings of a physical, grind-it-out game, and the over/under of 40.5 points–the third lowest of the week–would seem to back up that point. Even without a lot of scoring, though, this sets up as one of the best games in a week full of crucial matchups.