Fearless Prediction: Vikings-Panthers

Game Snapshot

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET

SURFACE: Grass

TV: NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Andrea Kremer)

KEYS TO THE GAME: To be competitive the Panthers have to

hold their own in the trenches. It starts with getting strong

run-blocking in front of RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart

so Carolina can control the ball. QB Matt Moore won’t take many

chances deep downfield, so the Panthers likely will have to string

together long drives in order to score. Minnesota got back to

featuring RB Adrian Peterson last Sunday, letting its big offensive

line take over. The Panthers give up 137.3 rushing yards per game

and are far stronger defending the pass, so the Vikings would be

wise to set up effective play-action for QB Brett Favre.

FAST FACTS: Vikings WR/KR Percy Harvin leads all rookies

with eight touchdowns. … Carolina’s defense has forced 21

turnovers the past seven games.

Personnel News

Vikings:

  • WR Bernard Berrian was limited Wednesday and Thursday because

    of a hamstring injury that has bothered him for much of the

    season.

     

  • CB Cedric Griffin was limited for a second consecutive day

    because of a neck injury that also bothered him last week but did

    not cause him to miss any time Sunday.

     

  • LG Steve Hutchinson was limited for a second consecutive day

    because of a shoulder injury that he has been able to play

    through.

     

  • S Tyrell Johnson was limited for a second consecutive day

    after being held out all last week and missing Sunday’s game

    against Cincinnati because of a concussion.

     

  • RT Phil Loadholt was limited for a second consecutive day by

    a shoulder injury suffered Dec. 6 at Arizona. He was able to play

    Sunday.

     

  • CB Karl Paymah (knee/ankle) was limited for a second

    consecutive day after missing last Sunday’s game.

     

  • TE Visanthe Shiancoe was limited Wednesday and Thursday

    because of rib and foot issues.

     

  • C John Sullivan was limited Wednesday and Thursday because of

    a concussion.

     

  • CB Antoine Winfield, who returned last Sunday after missing

    six games, remains limited in practice this week.

     

  • WR Sidney Rice did not practice Thursday because of an

    illness.

     

  • DE Ray Edwards was added to the injury report and limited

    Thursday because of an issue with his back.

     

Panthers:

  • WR Muhsin Muhammad returned to practice Thursday after taking

    a day off. He should play this week.

     

  • QB Jake Delhomme (broken finger) did not practice for a

    second straight day and is not likely to play this week.

     

  • CB Richard Marshall (ankle) missed his second straight day of

    practice Thursday. If he can’t go, Captain Munnerlyn will get the

    start against his childhood idol Brett Favre.

     

  • CB Captain Munnerlyn could start this week if Richard

    Marshall is unable to get back on the field.

     

  • LB Na’il Diggs practiced full for the second straight day.

     

  • RB Jonathan Stewart practiced full on Thursday and appears

    ready for this week.

     

Inside The Camps

Vikings:

The Vikings have little idea if wide receiver Percy Harvin

will be able to play Sunday in Carolina, and at this point that

probably isn’t even that big of concern.

What is worrisome is the long-term prognosis for Harvin, who

has been dealing with migraine headaches for much of this season.

Harvin, the favorite to win NFL rookie of the year honors,

missed his first game of the season Sunday against Cincinnati

because of migraines and has not practiced this week. He also

missed practice all of last week.

Harvin had missed various other practices this season

because of the intense headaches but had been able to play in

games. He went to see more doctors last Monday and was put through

tests but because the episodes are so unpredictable it has the team

concerned.

“We’re attempting to look into and see if there are any

common denominators,” coach Brad Childress said of the tests Harvin

is undergoing. “He’s been having them for a good period of time.

It’s important for us to get some kind of baseline if we can,

doctor-wise, and yet still know that (the migraines) are fairly

unpredictable. We as coaches — you know, the controlling types —

we would like to control those things but that’s something beyond

my control. So I’m maturing too in the things I can control and

can’t control.”

Harvin has suffered from migraines since he was 10 years

old. He missed two games as a sophomore at the University of

Florida. However, the episodes seem to be more frequent of late and

Childress said doctors want to rule out any other possibilities.

“You know I think (the doctors) attempt to allay their fears

in terms of other things, worse things, by asking questions,”

Childress said. “But not being a doctor, they’ve got a whole set of

kind of protocols that they are taking him through.”

Panthers:

The Minnesota Vikings come into this week’s game with an

NFL-high 41 sacks and face a Carolina Panthers offense that will be

without starting offensive tackles Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah, both

on injured reserve.

Not a great combination for the Panthers.

Geoff Schwartz will make his first NFL start on Sunday

night.

Schwartz, a seventh-round pick in 2008 who spent his rookie

season on the practice squad, said the biggest problem he had

adjusting from college to the NFL was learning to line up in a

three-point stance. That’s largely because Schwartz almost never

did that at the University of Oregon, where he operated with his

hands on his knees.

“I spent three years in college never getting in a

three-point stance,” said Schwartz. “I might have taken three to

five reps ever in a three-point stance. So I focused on that last

year, just getting comfortable in that. And I worked on it in the

off-season with Jordan Gross on that. I think that’s the biggest

thing I’ve improved on is just playing from a three-point stance.”

Although it might seem like an easy change, Schwartz said

the concept takes some getting used to.

“You run-block better from a three-point stance and your

angles are a little different. I don’t know how to explain it but

it’s just a whole different game. Mainly the run blocking is

different when you’re in the three, rather than the two,” Schwartz

said.

Schwartz spent last year on the practice squad and coaches

urged him to get stronger.

He thinks he accomplished that goal.

“You want to be on the roster, but then I realized I needed

a year to get stronger and to mentally get ready and also

physically to lift every day,” said the 6-foot-6, 331-pound

Schwartz. “I used it as an opportunity to get better. In the end it

helped me out a lot.”

Running back Jonathan Stewart, who ran behind Schwartz at

Oregon, said he’s confident his former college teammate can do the

job.

“We go way back to the days where he had long hair,” said

Stewart. “I guess you could say he got me to the NFL (blocking for

me). He’s got great feet, that’s one of the reasons I think they

drafted him. Big guy, good feet, I think he’s going to do well this

week. He did well in college while I was in the backfield with him.

“He’s more aggressive now with his hands. I think that’s

something that Mags (offensive-line coach Dave Magazu) has been

trying to get him to do. Just being more aggressive, he’s such a

big guy, he can do a lot with his size.”

PREDICTION: Vikings 30-16