The Vikings are coming to town this Sunday with the intent of upsetting the Chargers en route to getting back on track in an otherwise underwhelming season thus far.
With a notable running back and two premiere wide receivers, this Vikings offense knows how to move the ball with their own dynamic trio of playmakers. However, it’s the defenses of these two teams that could play the biggest
The Vikings join the Chargers with one of the bottom-three run defenses in the NFL. However, Minnesota’s pass defense ranks right in the middle at 16th while the Chargers’ is the third-best unit in defending opposing quarterbacks. Injuries to the secondary may end up making it a wash across the board, but I’m not counting out Derwin James and those guys just yet.
With all of that being said, let’s go ahead and jump right in to the three things I’ll be watching for when the Bolts host the Vikings on Sunday.
1.) Can the Chargers take advantage of a Vikings run defense that’s almost as bad as their own?
Heading into week 10, the Vikings are allowing an average of 136.6 rushing yards per game. That’s the third-most in the NFL and actually just half a yard short of being the worst in the league apart from the Chargers (Houston is second-worst at 136.9). With that in mind, could this end up being a massive game for the Austin Ekeler? Can the Chargers finally give another team the same treatment that they’ve been receiving from opponents over the past five weeks?
Perfectly executed draw play by the Chargers OL and an ANGRY finish by Austin Ekeler pic.twitter.com/koPcMvlYjf— Steven Haglund (@StevenIHaglund) November 10, 2021
2.) How will a depleted secondary handle the dynamic receiver duo of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson?
The Chargers entered their game against the Eagles without Asante Samuel Jr. and Michael Davis. They then proceeded to leave Philly with an injured Ryan Smith, further leaving their secondary in shambles.
Now there’s a chance that Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion) and Alohi Gilman (ankle) return this week, but that still leave the cornerback group short-handed. Getting Samuel back could be huge as he’d team with Chris Harris and Tevaughn Campbell to top this elite pass-catching duo for the Vikings.
If Gilman returns, I wonder how the coaching staff will use Derwin James to help stop either receiver. They don’t truly have a threat at tight end so it may actually be smart of them to get James in a position to affect them throughout Sunday’s game.
That’s wishful thinking, but not out of the realm of possibility for Staley and Co.
Adam Thielen, let’s goooooo pic.twitter.com/haFvgdhRhL— Vikings Talk (@LetsTalk_Vikes) November 7, 2021
3.) Will the Vikings find a way to out-Charger the Chargers?
If you’ve paid any sort of attention the past five years to both the Chargers and the Vikings, you’ll have likely seen both of these teams frustrate their respective fan bases in similar ways. Whether it’s ill-timed special teams blunders, the carousel of kickers in and out of the buildings, and/or just incredibly bone-headed plays at the worst of times, these teams are almost mirror images of each other on either side of the AFC/NFC line.
When it comes to this season, the Vikings have had the unfortunate luck of being on the wrong side of their one-score games more so than the right side. They’ve lost due to missed field goals. They lost due to a defense laying down on the final drive of the game. Really, anything you can think of that’s caused the Chargers to lose a game last year, the Vikings have probably already done that.
But this year is different for the Chargers. They’ve won more close games than they’ve dropped, which is already a huge step forward.
So in this game between two teams who normally want to try and out-lose the other, which one will keep their head on straight long enough to pull this one out?
Oh, and you KNOW this will come down to a field goal. You just do.