The Minnesota Vikings look to take another step towards a playoff spot when they visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Minnesota comes in with a 9-4 record while the Chargers are 5-8 this season.
It has been an impressive, but not surprising turnaround for Mike Zimmer’s Vikings this year. Case Keenum took them to the NFC title game in 2017, but they took a massive step back with Kirk Cousins at the helm last year. In Cousins’ second season with the team, though, it has all gone according to plan, and the Vikings find themselves as the second Wild Card team in a crowded NFC. All dimensions of their offense have been good, and they’ve played well in the absence of Adam Thielen.
Last year, the Chargers defeated Lamar Jackson’s Ravens in the postseason, but this season, they need to win out just to finish at .500. A combination of Melvin Gordon struggling upon his return from a holdout, kicking problems, and key injuries on the defensive side has played a role in the team’s lackluster campaign.
The Chargers had several chances to win games within the division that they blew, and those are all on them. Philip Rivers has shown that he has lost a step, despite all of the yards he has still managed to pass for. Is this his last year with the franchise?
The visiting Vikings are one-point favorites, while the over/under is set at 45.5.
Taking The Next Step
With the Los Angeles Rams starting to play their best football of the year, this game is suddenly crucial for the 9-4 Vikings. In the AFC, they wouldn’t have much to worry about with this record so late in the year, but that’s purely hypothetical. They are seventh in points for and also against, dealing with injuries to Thielen and early-season unhappiness from Stefon Diggs.
Cousins is completing 70 percent of his passes and has fired 24 TDs to just four interceptions, with his accuracy being a big part of the Vikings’ better season. The run game has worked out, while the offensive line has done well in giving Cousins time to throw.
Minnesota’s defense has also done its job, led by Danielle Hunter up front. The Vikings get pressure on the QB, while the defensive secondary has done well to pick off errant throws.
Playing For Pride
At 5-8, this is a Chargers season that was lost before it ever started. Losing safety Derwin James to injury for much of the season crushed their defense, while Los Angeles had its punter serving as the placekicker as well for several weeks.
With Gordon holding out, they got few, if any, effective running plays. And when he came back, he looked atrocious for the first few weeks. Hunter Henry got hurt in Week 2, and the Chargers had no wide receiver depth beyond Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. Even with Rivers somehow throwing for 3,748 yards, he has 15 interceptions and has been sacked 27 times. He can hardly get outside the pocket.
Los Angeles has gotten another big year from Joey Bosa, but one man cannot change a defense if his name isn’t Aaron Donald or Khalil Mack.
Vikings Get It Done
Los Angeles will clinch a losing season just one year after a playoff trip. Minnesota picks up the win, its 10th of the season.
Free play: MIN -1
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