The Vikings will look to build on the momentum they started at home last week in their physical win over the Detroit Lions in week two. I talked about the things I was looking to see earlier in the week, and Eric gave you his prediction here, and we both said this week is kind of a prove it week for the Vikings. So, let's get into the prediction business. And I mean everybody. Tell us what you think in the comments.
As is true with almost every game, the line play on both sides of the ball is going to be key, and I think the Vikings have an advantage here. Now, your initial reaction might be 'Ted, the Vikings offensive line is a wreck, especially if Fusco is out' and you're right, but hear me out.
The Chargers front four isn't exactly stout, and can be run on between the tackles. The Vikes o-line played very well, for the most part, against a very good Lions defensive front, and if they can bring that same performance Sunday, the offense will hum. On the other side of the ball, I think the Vikings defensive front is more athletic, and deeper in talent, than the Chargers offensive line. But the Chargers have two great neutralizers: the quasi no-huddle offense, and a QB in Phillip Rivers that has a quick release. The Vikings front four is going to have to bring pressure and get home without a lot of help, because he'll hurt you if you bring help and it doesn't get there:
Don't blitz Philip Rivers ...this year 16 for 18 89% 191yards, 11.9 per reception, 129.4 QB rating, 1 TD 3 explosive plays— Pat Kirwan (@PatKirwanCBS) September 24, 2015
There's a good chance they can do that, though, as the Chargers are kind of banged up on the offensive line as well. C Chris Watt (groin) and guard D.J. Fluker (ankle) are both banged up, and with DT's Linval Joseph and Shariff Floyd having good games against Detroit, I would expect that trend to continue Sunday. Rivers is not a mobile guy, so pressure up the middle and disrupting his rhythm will be crucial. Do that, force him from the pocket, and the Vikings will be in business. The Cincinnati Bengals did a good job of that last week, and I would suspect Mike Zimmer has a similar plan in mind, with a few unique wrinkles thrown in.
Time of Possession:
The Chargers no-huddle isn't the frenetic Chip Kelly mentality, but if the Vikings defense can force a few quick possessions by the Chargers, and the offense sustains a couple of drives using Adrian Peterson as a battering ram, by the fourth quarter the Chargers defense will be gassed, and the game will be there for the taking. I like the chances of the Vikings to mix the running game with some more short and intermediate passes, get first downs, chew the clock, and wear down the Chargers.
Who Are The Key Players?
On offense, give me Adrian Peterson again. The key to this game will be Minnesota's ability to control the ball, and to do that they'll need Peterson to keep the offense in manageable down and distance. 2nd and 5, 3rd and 3, and the whole playbook opens up. Consistent runs, a few big plays, and once San Diego creeps an 8th man in the box, boom, the big plays will be there.
On defense, Captain Munnerlyn vs. Stevie Johnson is going to be a key matchup. I'm expecting Xavier Rhodes to match up for most of the game on Keenan Allen, and Johnson has started to flourish in the slot for the Chargers. Munnerlyn did a great job in the slot against Golden Tate last week, and with the Chargers receiving threats limited due to suspension and injury, how this battle unfolds will go a long way in determining who wins the game.
Overall, these are two evenly matched teams, and if you look at the history of this series, the road team tends to play poorly. Is it because of the time zone change? I don't know, but I like the Vikings in this one, 28-17.
So, who ya got?