This entire week, the NFL media has been stirring this game up into a matchup between two teams who can’t get out of their own way. They can’t help but keeps things close and dramatic, but the end result is usually written on the wall more often than not.
But now with the Chargers and Vikings squaring off, the bad luck has to inevitably bounce towards one team or the other. Both cannot lose. Both cannot snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Besides from the jokes and giggles that get underhand-tossed our way, there’s still plenty of other storylines to follow during this game. Let’s go ahead and dive into the three we’ll be watching the closest when these teams hit the field in U.S. Bank on Sunday morning.
1.) In a game between two teams allergic to finishing, which team will break their bad habits and get their first victory?
The Chargers have played some clean and efficient football on the offensive side of the ball. Justin Herbert has thrown for three touchdowns, 534 yards, and zero interceptions while leading his team to 58 points through their first two games. Yet they currently sit at 0-2.
The Vikings, on the other hand, have turned the ball over six times this season with five of those coming as lost fumbles. Kirk Cousins is currently leads the NFL with six touchdown passes (tied with Green Bay’s Jordan) while throwing just one pick. However, he’s lost multiple fumbles which surely has put the team in a position to where he MUST throw the football a ton to keep them in the game.
But now these two teams will face each other on Sunday with everything to gain and somehow, at the same time, quite a bit to lose.
The Chargers don’t normally fire coaches in the middle of the season, but depending on how this game goes, especially if they lose in tragic fashion, will it simply be too easy to pull the ripcord on Brandon Staley?
If the Chargers win, and the Vikings are sloppy once more, what will Minnesota feel obligated to do? They probably aren’t relieving Brian Flores of duties after just his third game of the year. Kevin O’Connell likely isn’t being let go after going 13-3 in his first season. Do the Vikings become sellers?
Heck, do the Chargers become sellers if they lose?
I think the outcome and what it could lead to is just so fascinating at this point. Two chronically-underachieving teams being pushed together one the brink of an internal implosion? This is going to be must-watch football for everyone around the league come Sunday.
2.) Can the Chargers rushing attack find their footing once more against a porous Vikings run defense?
The Chargers truly flipped the script of their rushing offense in Week One from past seasons by rushing for a whopping 234 yards against the Dolphins. That momentum on the ground was short-lived as they immediately ran into the brick wall that was the Titans defense led by defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons. In that game, they only mustered 61 yards total rushing on 21 carries.
The Vikings are allowing a robust 166.0 rushing yards per game through two week. That of course is coming off the back of a game against the Eagles who rushed around, through, and over their defense for a total of 259 yards on 48 carries. I do not believe the Chargers will reach anywhere near that total this week, but it does sound like a lot easier of a day at the office for Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller.
If the Chargers can get back over the 100-yard threshold and play a bit of keep-away from Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson, their chances of coming away with their first win would rise exponentially.
3.) Will the Chargers send pressure against Kirk Cousins or drop off to smother Justin Jefferson?
The Chargers’ pass coverage has been thoroughly exposed through the opening two weeks, they are giving up record breaking numbers with no sign of slowing down. On the face of things you would expect a whole defensive failing however the Bolts front end have been getting pressure and I expect to see a key storyline in whether or not Staley goes on the attack versus a potent passing offence.
Staley and his staff have dialed up the blitz rate this year and it has been working; depsite getting 0 sacks in Week 1, the defence actually generated 17 pressures and in Week 2 the Bolts turned 14 pressures into 5 sacks. This uptick in efficiency was due to a few things; varied fronts, the use of off ball linebackers and a true pass rush rotation (something we haven’t seen in a long long time). The problems have evidently not been in getting to the QB in general, the issues have been in getting to the QB with rushing 4 or less, freeing up 7+ defenders to patrol the secondary. Almost all of the pressures have come on designed blitz concepts and so taking numbers away from the back end and leaving unprotected areas of the field.
Kirk Cousins has not been great under pressure holding a 52.3 passing grade in these situations according to PFF, this shows that blitzing him will yield some results however there is an argument for Staley to play lighter packages as the Vikings run game offers little threat from what has been on display so far this season, he could therefore drop more defenders into coverage to see where the Vikings go from there.
It’s going to be an interesting study to see how you stop a one dimensional team when nobody else has been successful so far this season, Jefferson is on pace to shatter records so stopping him through attacking his quarterback could be the way to go.