A game against a 5-8 team in a 25,000-seat stadium packed with Vikings fans won’t be as easy as it sounds; the Chargers are talented and reached the divisional playoffs last year. If the Vikings win the turnover battle and avoid the West Coast doldrums, they will keep their NFC North title hopes intact.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Concerned about the Chargers
The Chargers have outscored their opponents by 38 points this season, and they held the Packers to 184 yards in a home victory over Green Bay last month. Their fourth-ranked defense, Mike Zimmer said, has “three tremendous players” in DEs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and DB Derwin James.
Looking for a win out west
The Vikings’ loss in Seattle two weeks ago dropped them to 1-4 on the West Coast under Zimmer, and 1-6 when playing in time zones west of their own. They will try to record a West Coast victory for the first time since 2015.
Respect for Rivers
This could be the last time the Vikings face Philip Rivers, who is playing his 16th season and has thrown 15 interceptions this season. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Rivers “is our starting quarterback,” amid questions he might be benched for Tyrod Taylor. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins — long an admirer of Rivers — said he looks at the eight-time Pro Bowl pick as a model for pocket passers.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes vs. Chargers receiver Mike Williams
Waynes has been the target of some big plays this season — he has given up a team-high 1.55 yards per coverage snap, according to Pro Football Focus — and he is likely to see plenty of Williams, the 6-foot-4 receiver who leads the league with 21 yards per catch this season.
Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff vs. Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa
Bosa, the third overall pick in the 2016 draft, is sixth in the league with 62 quarterback pressures this season, according to PFF. He has got 37 of them on the left side, but he has lined up largely on the right side in recent weeks and would represent one of Reiff’s more difficult tests if the Chargers have him trying to attack Cousins’ blind side.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
1-4 Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers’ career record against Mike Zimmer’s defenses. The Chargers lost three of four games against the Bengals while Zimmer was the defensive coordinator there, and lost to the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium in 2015.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF …
They can take advantage of Rivers’ penchant for turning the ball over, keep the Chargers quarterback from hitting downfield throws against a defense that’s given up plenty of them this season and keep quarterback Kirk Cousins clean against one of the better pass-rushing tandems they’ve seen this season.
THE CHARGERS WILL WIN IF …
Bosa and Ingram can make life difficult for Cousins while the defense slows down Dalvin Cook, and Rivers can keep the Vikings on their heels with shorter throws to Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen, as well as the downfield shots he likes to take with Williams.
Ben Goessling's rediction: Vikings 24, Chargers 21
Win probability: 55%