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Minnesota Vikings v Carolina Panthers

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Two of the NFL’s top running backs should be facing off Sunday – but that won’t be the case in New York, where the Panthers will take on the Giants at MetLife stadium. Christian McCaffrey remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Giants star Saquan Barkley has a sprained ankle. Regardless of who’s on the field, both of these teams are hungry for a victory – the 3-3 Panthers are looking to snap a three-game losing streak, while the Giants are trying to pick up just their second win of the season, they’re 1-5 after last week’s loss to the Rams. For the Panthers, it’s about getting back to what works on offense, with or without CMC. “We’re going to redefine who we are,” said coach Matt Rhule. “We’re going to run the football, and we’re going to protect the quarterback, and we’re not going to turn the ball over anymore. That’s the only way that we’re going to win.”

Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. As far as the Giants are concerned, winning has not come easy. They can’t score, they can’t run, and they’ve been dealing with a ton of injuries, most notably to Barkley. All of their receivers have also been dinged up, including electric rookie Kadarious Toney and big-play threat Kenny Golladay, neither is expected to play. Former Duke standout and Charlotte native Daniel Jones starts at quarterback, but he’s only managed four touchdowns to go with four interceptions. He is a threat to scramble though,and is currently the team’s leading rusher! He’ll face a Panthers defense that ranks third in the NFL and is second against the pass, allowing just 197 yards per game through the air.

The opposite is true for the Giants defense – they’re struggling all the way around, giving up over 400 yards and nearly 30 points per game, that’s 29th in the league. They are awful against the run, so even without McCaffrey the Panthers should be able to move the ball against them. The Giants are also struggling to get pressure on the quarterback, with just 10 sacks on the year. They’ve got plenty of talent, though, including veteran defensive lineman Leonard Williams and former Panther cornerback James Bradberry, he has a pair of interceptions.

It’s time for the Panthers to stop the bleeding and get back in the win column. It seems like that should be easy to do against a 1-5 team. But no one is looking past the Giants. “We’re not in a position to overlook anybody,” said cornerback Donte Jackson. “We’ll be playing professional football players on Sunday. We’ve just got to go out there and play our style of ball and our brand of ball and we’ll see where that takes us.”

by Sharon Thorsland