Scott Fowler

Fowler: Carolina Panthers arrive at last chance to be relevant

You know it’s going to be cold, since this game will be played outside in Minnesota on the last day of November.

You know it’s going to be difficult, since this Minnesota team only lost to Green Bay by three points a week ago and Carolina lost to that same Packers team by 21 this season.

But this game must be won if the Panthers want to be relevant in December. The Panthers keep getting presented one opportunity after another by their lame NFC South brethren – at 3-7-1, Carolina is still only a half-game back of the division lead.

Somehow, although the Panthers should be out of it, they are not. Minnesota, like Carolina, is not a very good team. But it’s plenty good enough to beat the Panthers, even without Adrian Peterson. The Panthers have to force rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into some mistakes – I think that’s the biggest key.

• The Panthers and Vikings both have a Charles Johnson. You know the one from Carolina – the defensive end who has been a mainstay for years. The one from Minnesota, however, will also be a factor. That Charles Johnson had 87 yards worth of pass receptions against Chicago two weeks ago and scored his first career TD last week against Green Bay.

• There will be a lot of attention on Panthers center Ryan Kalil and his younger brother, Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil, before and during this game on TV. Matt Kalil had one of his worst days as a pro against Green Bay, getting called for three critical penalties, then skipping out on interviews with reporters after the game and knocking a heckler’s hat off the guy’s head as Kalil walked to his car after that game. Video of that incident soon surfaced, leaving the younger Kalil apologizing for more than just his play.

• Division envy: The Vikings would love to be in the NFC South this season. Minnesota’s 4-7 record places it last in the NFC North. It would tie for first in the NFC South.

• Prediction time: My record is 6-4-1 predicting Carolina’s outcome, which is not a whole lot better than the Panthers’ mark. Carolina whipped the Vikings by 25 points a year ago. But that was then and this unfortunately is now – the Panthers are mired in a five-game losing streak and aren’t built for weather this extreme. My pick: Minnesota 20, Carolina 16.