Football

Can the Vikings close out the Chargers?

CARLOS GONZALEZ, STAR TRIBUNE

The Chargers (5-3) will look to build on their complete offensive performance against the Eagles last week when they host the Vikings in Week 10. The Vikings played well at times in Baltimore, but they could not play consistent enough to win. The Vikings (3-5) suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Ravens in Week 9, and desperately look to rebound in L.A.

Time for some creative thinking

If the Vikings are to score enough points to compete with the Chargers on Sunday, they will need to branch out from their issues with predictability. I agree with my colleague Cole Haro who said, “What might be most infuriating is the Vikings long-term problem of calling a screen pass on third down.” Too often have the Vikings played it safe, and in turn given up opportunities. If you want to read more on the Vikings’ ineptitudes, you can see Haro’s full article here; I recommend it!

The Vikings should look to get Dalvin Cook going early. The Chargers rank dead last in rush defense, so Cook should be primed for a big day. However, the Vikings need to balance out Cook with a healthy dose of play-action. To avoid falling into their old habits, the Vikings need to run some early-down crossing routes to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Getting their two big name receivers involved early and often is going to be key in their success.

They also will look to improve on their 3rd down failures. A 35.7% conversion rate is not acceptable from a team with the talent they have. Getting more aggressive with the play calling may be the key to improvement. The Vikings will need to keep their 3rd downs to manageable yards-to-go, and then avoid telegraphing screen passes to CJ Ham when they need nine yards. Catching the Chargers defense off-guard will be the key to the Vikings scoring 30+ points, which they may need to do to keep pace with L.A.

Can Justin Herbert be slowed down?

Scoring a lot of points may not be enough for the Vikings to win. They’ll need to slow down a Justin Herbert-led offense that is chalk-full of talent. Austin Ekeler out of the backfield is averaging 4.74 yards/carry and is a tricky threat out of the backfield. In the receiving game, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen are among the best, and the Vikings will be without Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, and Michael Pierce.

In other words, the Minnesota defense will be without a key player at each level, making a hard job harder against the Chargers. Herbert shredded the Eagles secondary in Week 9 en route to an 84.2% completion percentage. He threw for two touchdowns and rushed for one. The Vikings will be lucky to hold him near those numbers again on Sunday. With no notable injuries to the offense, the Chargers are in good position to exploit the 28th-ranked Vikings defense.

What’s at stake?

For the Chargers, they need to win to cling to their narrow lead in the AFC West. You can bet the 5-4 Chiefs will turn things around, and the Chargers cannot afford to drop many more games if they want to take the division crown. They will also need the buffer heading into a stretch of three games against tough conference opponents (vsPIT, atDEN, atCIN).

For the Vikings, their divisional hopes are already in rough shape, so they are looking to stay in the hunt for the wild card race. The Vikings are also looking for their first win against an AFC opponent. If you believe in moral victories, closing out a good Chargers team on the road could be just the spark this talented team needs to go on a run.

Prediction

In 2007, Adrian Peterson ran for a career-high 296 yards against the then-San Diego Chargers. Those Chargers went 11-5 in the regular season, and lost in the conference championship to the undefeated New England Patriots. Weird things happen in the NFL, and on any given Sunday, a team can pull off an upset. I think this Chargers team has the potential for a deep playoff run, but they will lose on Sunday. I don’t predict 296 yards from Dalvin Cook, but I do think he gets over a hundred, to go with at least one touchdown.

The Vikings give their season some hope, and win 38-27.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

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