The Minnesota Vikings-Los Angeles Chargers game looked more interesting before the start of the season, but it would have been a terrible match for LA if Danielle Hunter had suffered a chest injury at the end of the season. Now the Chargers seem ready to do the Vikings 3-6. But given the incredibly inconsistent nature of NFC and the must-win nature of this game for Minnesota, it feels like the Vikings can pull this game out.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Los Angeles Chargers storylines
The Vikings have to win because Mike Zimmer is on the Minnesota hot seat. They are 3-5 and that is almost entirely due to their pathetic offensive performance. We’ll find out soon enough why this is such a problem for a defensive head coach. Kirk Cousins doesn’t escape the guilt either.
But let’s get to the biggest question in this game. Is Justin Herbert back after last week’s performance against Philadelphia?
Is Justin Herbert back?
Honestly, I never would have believed he left. The Ravens can cause problems in a number of ways, and Bill Belichick is almost always a serious discrepancy against young quarterbacks.
However, we should talk about how Joe Lombardi keeps Herbert’s strongest trait – his arm strength – in the holster. Lombardi has spent years coaching Drew Brees in the late stages, and it’s proof that old habits die hard.
Earlier this year, the Lombardi restrictions weren’t that prominent for Herbert. However, as the season progressed, these ancient colors began to appear more frequently.
The biggest takeaway from watching the Chargers is that they need a downfield threat. They require a real speed weapon. So they should have done everything in their power to sign DeSean Jackson as a free agent.
Mike Zimmer’s hot seat
Zimmer’s success in Minnesota is undeniable. Despite playing in a division with Aaron Rodgers, his career record is 67-52-1. That’s an impressive résumé. Still, after having some successful offensive coordinators, he gave the job to Gary Kubiak for a year before handing the gig over to Kubiak’s son Klint.
We know no job is as performance-oriented as we’d like it to be, but this nepotistic act might be the one that brings Zimmer the ax at the end of the season. Minnesota’s offensive last season was 11th in the expected points added per game. Now, just one season later and with little change in personnel, they are in 19th and 15th place respectively.
This is a team that just needed upgraded defense to keep up. They did it, but their offensive consistency fell off a cliff. With the loss of Hunter and the injuries of Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith, it is not easy to see a path to success for the Vikings.
Kirk Cousins is also to blame
We can blame some of the blame on the Minnesota offensive line for allowing pressure, resulting in Cousins getting the ball out faster and closer to the line than ever before. The front fiver isn’t very good, especially inside. But Cousins isn’t testing downfield windows like he has in the past, and the Vikings aren’t doing enough schematic to give him the space and time to do it.
One is likely to cause the other. The poor orienteering game and the schematic drawbacks have diminished the cousins’ confidence in attempting downfield throws. But it’s still in there, hiding somewhere in it. Cousins could be lining up for a big game against a team from Los Angeles who are missing a lot of pass rush alongside Joey Bosa.
Minnesota vs. Los Angeles betting line and match prediction
The Chargers are 3-point favorites against the Vikings. Even though the game is taking place in Los Angeles, the betting markets don’t seem to feel like the Chargers have much of a home advantage. I’m surprised the line is so close, even though I think this game will end up in the hands of Vikings at the end of the day.
Minnesota has played in so many close games. I still don’t think the Vikings are a bad football team and a 3-5 record doesn’t exactly reflect their skill set. Which is a must for Minnesota, I believe they’ll get the win and open up the parity NFC even more.
Vikings vs. Chargers Prediction: Vikings 31, chargers 28