Watch CBS News

Vikings will rely on ball security against Chargers to get first win

Only 11% of NFL teams who start 0-2 make it to the playoffs
Only 11% of NFL teams who start 0-2 make it to the playoffs 03:43

MINNEAPOLIS — Two playoff teams from last year meet in what should make for one of the more entertaining 0-2 matchups you will see.

The Los Angeles Chargers embark on Minneapolis as a 1-point favorite. The point total for this game is the highest in the league at 51.

Both teams are high-powered on offense.

Through two weeks, the Chargers rank fourth in the NFL in total yards. They do it well both on the ground and especially through the air with quarterback Justin Herbert.

The Vikings rank second in the league averaging 337 passing yards through two weeks.

MORE: How often does an 0-2 team make it to the NFL playoffs?

Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 14: Kirk Cousins #8 and Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings stand on the sidelines during the national anthem prior to an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 14, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Kevin Sabitus / Getty Images

The main reason the Vikings are winless: they lead the league with seven turnovers. 

The Chargers have yet to record a turnover. They're plus-two in the turnover differential category, whereas the Vikings are a league-worst minus-six.

Both teams are coming off back-to-back one-score losses.

One team has to win, right? Or could a tie could be in the works?

Here's a look at a few battles that may determine Sunday's outcome.

Chargers' running attack versus Vikings' run defense

Any Viking fan who watched their week two loss to the Philadelphia Eagles saw Minnesota's run defense get torn to shreds.

The Eagles possessed the ball for nearly 40 minutes. 

The Chargers look to be formidable on the ground as well.

They ran for 233 yards with three touchdowns in week one. However, Austin Ekeler, their star running back who carried them in week one did not play last week.

They subsequently ran for only 61 yards. 

Some of that can be attributed to the difference in opponent — Miami's rush defense is worse than Tennessee's — yet Ekeler's presence makes the Chargers a much more dynamic and balanced offense.

Ekeler did not practice today... and it looks as if he'll miss Sunday's game.

Joshua Kelley will be the lead back assuming Ekeler is out again.

Dolphins Chargers Football
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs past Miami Dolphins safety DeShon Elliott during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. Mark J. Terrill / AP

On the Vikings side: Will Marcus Davenport play? The Vikings prized free agent signing — who they gave a one-year, $13 million contract to — has only played four snaps this season. He has been hampered by an ankle injury. 

On the bright side, Danielle Hunter looks to be back in top form — he looks quicker than a year ago in defensive coordinator Brian Flores' scheme and has four sacks thus far.

Chargers' wide receivers versus Vikings' secondary

The Chargers boast a multi-faceted skill group of wideouts that get open down the field.

Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are an elite one-two punch.

Allen, 31, recorded eight receptions with 111 yards and two touchdowns last week in 27-24 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Chargers
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 23: Keenan Allen #13 and Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers warm up prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at SoFi Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Inglewood, California. The Los Angeles Chargers lost 23-37. / Getty Images

Williams, 28, was the seventh overall pick in the 2018 draft. He's coming off of an eight-reception, 83-yard performance.

Containing both receivers will be an immense challenge for a Vikings secondary that's given up a few big plays through the air.

Eagle's wide receiver Devonta Smith scored a 63-yard touchdown last week, and Bucs' wide receiver Mike Evans scored a 28-yard touchdown in week one.

The Chargers also used their 21st overall pick on wide receiver Quentin Johnston — he only played 10 snaps last week, however.

Time of possession

The best way for the Vikings to get their first win of the season is by keeping the ball out of Herbert's hands. That's also football language for running the ball effectively, which has been far from the case through two weeks for Minnesota.

The team has ran for meager 2.6 yards per carry, tied for 31st in the league.

The Vikings are the only team in the NFL without a rush for 10 or more yards, and their paltry 69 rushing yards through two games is by far the lowest in the league.

The Vikings trading for former Rams' RB Cam Akers might help — but that won't make this team significantly better at gaining yards on the ground. The run blocking needs to drastically improve.

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 10: Cam Akers #3 of the Los Angeles Rams runs the ball during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on September 10, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. The Los Angeles Rams won 30-13. Getty Images

The Vikings signed guard Dalton Risner this week as well. But it's not like Risner will turn the team's line into a strength, either.

Minnesota needs to become more balanced on offense. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was knocked down the most of any passer in the league last season. He already leads the league this season

Cousins has been incredibly durable during his tenure with the Vikings. However, all quarterbacks suffer injuries. The more he gets hit — as a result of mediocre offensive line play and dropping back to pass 45 times a game — the more likely he is to suffer an injury.

He is 35 years old. Staying on the field does not get easier with age.

Minnesota has been one-dimensional for two weeks. Although turnovers have ruined both games, it's hard to believe the team will have much success anyways if the running game doesn't also pick up steam.

Only six teams have made the playoffs since 1979 after starting 0-3.

This is a big one, Vikings fans.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.