The Vikings are coming off an impressive win against a division foe and are looking to improve to 2-1 after a disappointing season opener in San Francisco.
With San Diego coming to town, the Vikings will have their hands full on defense as the Chargers aren’t short of playmakers.
Let’s take a look at the keys to success for the Vikings as they try to mirror their impressive showing vs. Detroit.
A Potent Offense:
Lead on offense by five time pro bowl quarterback Philip Rivers, the Chargers offense always makes games competitive. After trailing Detroit 21-3 in week 1, the Chargers rallied to win in impressive fashion and can’t be counted out, no matter the score.
Rivers continues to kill defenses through the air and is ranked 7th overall with a 106.8 QB Rating through two weeks. As usual, he’s doing so with good downfield passing, averaging 9.3 yards per completion – good for 2nd best in the league.
Rivers will take risks downfield and isn’t afraid to throw the ball into coverage and through the first two games of the season already has 3 INTs. If given the opportunity, the Vikings must take advantage of Rivers being a risk taker.
In terms of the running game, the Chargers will look to utilize rookie running back Melvin Gordon, who is an impressive runner but is seemingly having typical rookie ups and downs. Until Gordon can prove to be a 3 down back and improve his pass blocking, Danny Woodhead will get plenty of opportunity to make an impact.
Woodhead is a tricky back. On paper, he shouldn’t be a threat to the Vikings defense. However, Woodhead is the type of gadget back that can do it all and seemingly hurts the Vikings when given the chance.
Look for Woodhead to get the ball a lot in space, whether catching out of the backfield or running towards the boundaries where he can use some shiftiness to his advantage.
Disrupting the Offensive Line:
Thankfully for the Vikings, Rivers isn’t mobile and if we can again collapse the pocket, the defense should be able to get to the quarterback. Rivers has already taken 6 sacks and the Chargers offensive line isn’t getting any better over night.
In fact, on this week’s injury report, the Chargers listed 4 offensive lineman who are in question for this week. They are especially thin in the middle of the line, which will struggle to contain Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd.
I also suspect the Vikings will show a lot of double A gap pressure, as they have in weeks previous. However, with the Chargers so thin at guard and center, there is an opportunity to really take advantage with a play that has become Mike Zimmer’s bread and butter defensive blitz.
The Chargers have been good when passing averaging 305 yards a game, which is 4th best across the entire league. As I mentioned above, a lot of that is downfield passing and that is evident in the fact that the Chargers are ranked 17th with a total of 68 drop backs.
Rivers will also look to get the ball out fast if pressured and has only been hit 3 times while throwing thus far. I do worry about quick yardage if the Vikings show a lot of blitzes.
The Charger wide recievers will look to stretch the field if protection is good. The 3rd year receiver Keenan Allen is the biggest threat and I suspect Xavier Rhodes will spend a lot of time shadowing Allen in hopes of limiting his touches. Coming off a great game where Allen recorded 15 catches for 166 yards, I would expect the Chargers to look to get Allen involved early.
Opposite Allen is long time NFL veteran Stevie Johnson, who is not short on talent. Johnson has put up some impressive games thus far, registering 127 yards on 11 receptions and 2 touchdowns in the first two games. Not bad for your #2 wide out.
The Vikings are catching a break in the fact that long time Charger great Antonio Gates will not be eligbale to play. A favorite target of Rivers for what seems like two decades, Gates will be back filled by Ladarius Green as long as Green can pass the leagues concussion protocol after suffering his second concussion of the young NFL season.
Green is a young and talented tight end who could pose match up nightmares for the defense. Big and fast, Green is the heir apparent to Gates in San Diego and is a bit raw at this point, but you shouldn’t discount his ability to make an impact.
Don’t overlook San Diego. They are a sneaky team who can score in a variety of ways and are led by a fiery quaterback who is obviously very good.
It will be interesting to see how the Vikings decide to attack on defense. Blitzing Rivers could create some mismatches and quick strikes that could eat up time and yardage quickly. However, not getting to the quarterback could open the door to downfield passing, which the Chargers have proven to be very good at.
I do think the Vikings win on Sunday, but they will have their work cut out for them.
Here’s to hopes of 2-1.