When the Los Angeles Chargers take the field at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday, they will face a team that is equally motivated and desperate to get in to the win column this season.
The Chargers and the Vikings are remarkably similar teams. Both teams feature high-powered passing games that are the key to making the playoffs this season. The Chargers and the Vikings were both successful in that area last year, as the Chargers were n AFC Wild Card team while the Vikings finished as NFC North champions.
Unfortunately, both teams lost their Wild Card games in painful fashions, and they have started the current season in a painful manner with losses in each of their first 2 games.
The Chargers are heavily dependent on their offense, and based on the talent they have on the roster, they seem to have enough weapons to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West division. Justin Herbert is one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL, and he is supported by wide receivers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and rookie Quentin Johnston.
The Chargers also have one of the best running backs in the league in Austin Ekeler. However, Ekeler has been nursing an ankle injury, and he did not play in the team's Week 2 loss to the Tennessee Titans. It appears unlikely that he will compete in the Vikings game, but he has not been ruled out officially.
Joshua Kelly has been the Chargers leading rusher to this point, and he will likely get the majority of the carries against the Vikings.
2. Justin Herbert will set the tone for Chargers with at least 2 TD passes
Justin Herbert is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league. While the Chargers have fallen short in games to the Dolphins and Titans, Herbert has put good numbers on the board. He has completed 50 of 74 passes for 534 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.
This good start comes on the heels of a wonderful season last year when Herbert completed 477 of 699 passes for 4,739 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. As long as the Los Angeles offensive line provides decent support, Herbert should be able to have a solid game against the vulnerable Minnesota defense.
The Vikings were the 31st-ranked defense a year ago, and while they fired their defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and brought in Brian Flores to upgrade the unit, the team appears to lack the talent to slow down talented offensive teams like the Chargers.
As the Chargers prepare for the encounter, Herbert, Allen and Williams should be licking their chops at a chance to do serious damage to the vulnerable Minnesota defense.
The one player to fear for the Charges may be pass rusher Danielle Hunter, who is off to a powerful start for the Vikings. Hunter, who has had as many as 14.5 sacks in two different seasons, has registered 4.0 sacks in Minnesota's first 2 games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles.
Look for Herbert to throw touchdown passes to Allen and Williams, and to throw for at least 275 yards.
1. Joshua Kelly may be a back-up player, but he will exceed 100 yards against the Vikings run defense
While the Los Angeles passing game seems to be the team's most dependable attribute, the running game will be able to do a lot of damage against Minnesota.
The Vikings pass defense has actually done a bit better than expected this season, but that's likely the result of a run defense that simply got overpowered by the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2. The Eagles ran for 259 yards on 48 carries against the Vikings, and they averaged 5.4 yards per carry.
The Eagles received virtually no resistance from the Minnesota run defense, and that should serve as a green light for Kelly. He is the Chargers' leading rusher through the first 2 games of the season, gaining 130 rushing yards and averaging 4.5 yards per carry while scoring a touchdown.
The Los Angeles offensive line is one of the best units in the league and that unit is led by left tackle Rashawn Slater. They should be able to open consistent holes in the Minnesota front, and Kelly will be able to take advantage with 115 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD.