Can the Vikings finish the toughest portion of their schedule with their ninth straight victory? If they’re able to stop Carolina’s multifaceted run game, they will. They’ve beaten Cam Newton before, and it’s tough to pick against them right now. Prediction: Vikings 17, Panthers 10.

Three big story lines

Playoff implications galore

The Vikings would clinch the NFC North with a win on Sunday, and give themselves a boost in their hunt for playoff home-field advantage. The Vikings need to win a tiebreaker scenario with the Eagles for that to happen.

Reunion weekend

Left tackle Matt Kalil and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn left the Vikings for the Panthers this offseason. Vikings tackle Mike Remmers spent three seasons with the Panthers.

D looks for encore vs. Newton

The Vikings sacked Cam Newton eight times last season and started a run of 22 unanswered points with a safety. They will try to make life difficult for Newton again.

Two key matchups

Vikings de Everson Griffen vs. Panthers LT Matt Kalil

They competed against each other the past five years in practice before Kalil went to Carolina. The former USC teammates will face one another in a game for the first time, as Kalil (who’s allowed five sacks) tries to keep Griffen from adding to his 12 sacks.

Vikings LB Eric Kendricks vs. Panthers RB Mccaffrey

McCaffrey, the eighth pick in the draft last spring, leads the Panthers with 64 catches and has 501 receiving yards. Kendricks has been the Vikings’ best linebacker in pass coverage.

One stat that matters

63.2 Cam Newton’s passer rating when pressured this season.

The Vikings will win if ...

They can run the ball against the Panthers’ defensive front, control the clock and bait Newton into making mistakes when he’s under pressure.

The Panthers will win if ...

They can convert third downs against a defense that’s better at getting off the field than any in the league, and get home with the frequent zone blitzes.

Goessling’s win probability

55%