The Minnesota Vikings (1-1) host the San Diego Chargers (1-1) at US Bank Stadium at 1 PM on Sunday. Both teams have beaten the Lions at home this season and lost their road contest. The Vikings lost at San Francisco badly on Monday Night Football and the Chargers were bested by the Bengals last week. The Chargers beat Detroit with a big day from short passes from Phillip Rivers in a comeback win after being down 18 points in the second quarter. The Vikings ran wild with Adrian Peterson in Week 2 hosting Detroit after a dreadful offensive performance (3 points) in Week 1 at San Francisco.
Let’s take a look at the matchups
Vikings Pass Rush against Chargers Protection
The Vikings have a strong pass rush led by DEs Everson Griffen (+3.8) and Brian Robison (+2.9). Robison had a down year in 2014 but has rebounded nicely with a 1 hit and 10 hurries in 2015. DTs Linval Joseph and backup DT Tom Johnson have good pass rush grades in this young season. Shariff Floyd was a top 5 DT in 2014 and must be double teamed. The Vikings blitzed Anthony Barr 16 times this season and Zimmer is not afraid to use the 2014 1st round pick off the edge. The Vikings have plenty of firepower to attack Phillip Rivers.
Rivers has been under pressure 35% (15th in league) of his drop backs this season. Detroit applied good pressure Week 1 but the Chargers quickly changed to a quick passing scheme to avoid the pressure. With the Vikings strong pass rush, look for a lot of quick passes on Sunday by Rivers.
King Dunlap (+3.8) has been strong at left tackle and will have a great battle with Everson Griffen. Right tackle Joseph Barksdale has been average and Robison could take advantage of Barksdale like Robison abused Cornelius Lucas in Week2. The Chargers interior has been having pass protection problems between center Chris Watt and left guard Orlando Franklin. Right guard Chris Hairston takes over for injured DJ Fluker. Hairston didn’t play well in Week 2.
Vikings Run Game
Peterson had a terrible Week 1 and destroyed the Lions in Week 2 at 4.6 YPC on 29 carries. The Vikings hope to retain the Peterson of old against the Chargers suspect run defense. San Diego is allowing 4.7 YPC and both Detroit and Cincinnati ran well. Peterson should have another big day. Center Joe Berger and left guard Brandon Fusco have been strong in run blocking this season. Berger is starting for injured Sullivan for Minnesota. Left tackle Matt Kalil and right guard Mike Harris have been average. Right tackle TJ Clemmings has struggled run blocking taking over for Phil Loadholdt.
The Chargers are bad at stopping the run and Peterson looks like the same all pro again despite Week 1 problems (10 carries only). Expect the Vikings to have a huge day running the ball.
Bridgewater against Chargers Coverage
PFF ranks Bridgewater as a top 5 QB in the league right now. Bridgewater has completed 74% of his 50 passes for 7.7 YPA through two weeks. Bridgewater only needed to attempt 18 passes in their win against Detroit and had a mediocre day (32 attempts) in their loss at San Francisco. Bridgewater threw 1 TD to Kyle Rudolph in Week 2 and was shut out Week 1 with an interception.
The Chargers have great coverage with Brandon Flowers, Jason Verrett and safety Eric Weddle blanketing opponents. Flowers and Verrett did a great job against Detroit but struggled against the Bengals in Week 2 in a loss. Patrick Robinson has been a solid third corner and the strong safety rotation has been average for the Chargers. Manti Te’o and Melvin Ingram have struggled when asked to cover but ILB Donald Butler and OLBs Emmanuel/Jeremiah Attoachu have been solid.
Rivers against Vikings Coverage
Rivers has been excellent this season completing 80% of his passes for an incredible 9.9 YPA. Rivers is on point after his big contract extension. Rivers has many weapons with Keenan Allen, Malcolm Floyd, Stevie Johnson and LaDarius Green (for a suspended Antonio Gates). Rivers has 4 TDs and 3 interceptions on the season in 68 attempts.
Xavier Rhodes struggled in Week 1 but was solid in Week 2 against a tough matchup with Calvin Johnson. Slot corner Captain Munnerlyn and free safety Harrison Smith have been excellent in coverage. Veteran Terrence Newman was terrible in Week 1 but very good in Week 2 against Detroit. Strong safety Andrew Sendejo has been average taking over for Robert Blanton.
The Vikings will have a pass rush to help their coverage on the back end. However, Rivers quick passes and multiple weapons will present problems for the Vikings.
Chargers Pass Rush against Vikings Protection
The Vikings have had protection problems with Bridgewater pressured 41.9% of the time (5th most in league). The Chargers have struggled rushing the passer and only have one sack (Kyle Emmanuel on Stafford) for the season on an unblocked miscommunication play. The Chargers 4 QB hits and 16 hurries through two games will not be enough this season. Both teams struggle with pass rush so something will have to give in this matchup. If the Vikings protect Bridgewater on his limited pass attempts, Minnesota should have a huge offensive day coupled with the rushing of Peterson.
Chargers Run Game
Rookie Melvin Gordon struggled against Detroit in Week 1 with 3.6 YPC and a fumble lost. Gordon rebounded in Week 2 with 5.5 YPC on 15 carries against the Bengals. The entire Chargers’ offensive line have struggled other than Orlando Franklin and injured DJ Fluker in run blocking. The Vikings got abused by the 49ers in Week 1 and shut down the Lions run game in Week 2 (16 carries). We will see which Jekyll and Hyde show up for each team in this game.
The Vikings have the pass rush and rushing offense to win this game. The Chargers could score some points with short passing by Rivers and Gordon could run like Week 2 if the Vikings play run defense plays like they did in Week 1. Minnesota has the home field advantage on a West Coast team and should do enough to top the Chargers with Peterson and disrupting Rivers.
Vikings 26 Chargers 20