The Vikings and Chargers both made the playoffs last year, but at 0-2, they’re both in danger of failing to do so this season. With tons of star players on both sides, let’s see who might have a big game and dig into some player props for this inter-conference matchup.
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This game is absolutely pivotal for both squads, as 0-3 teams very rarely make it to the playoffs- it’s happened just once since the 1995 season. Fortunately for these squads, they both have some highly potent offenses to get them back on track, so let’s see who’s going to chip in on Sunday.
Justin Herbert o282.5 passing yards (-120 BetMGM)
Even though he’s handcuffed to a completely incompetent head coach in Brandon Staley, Justin Herbert still manages to remind us over and over that he’s one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. Last season, he was also stuck with Joe Lombardi, one of the worst offensive coordinators in the league, and still averaged 278.8 passing yards per game. The Chargers have since upgraded to Kellen Moore, and after a relatively slow start against the Dolphins, Herbert tossed for 305 yards against a Titans defense that has graded very well against the pass in terms of EPA. It’s worth noting that even though that game went to overtime, all of those yards were accumulated within regulation in the overtime loss.
The Vikings pass defense is not regarded as highly as the Titans’ unit, in fact it checks in as below average in terms of EPA, while PFF has no respect for their pass rush, which ranks 30th in their grading system. Minnesota’s safeties have played well so far, but Herbert should be able to really get after their corners with weapons like Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Considering the loss of star runner Austin Ekeler, we can expect the Chargers to lean on the pass pretty heavily, a trend we saw play out against Tennessee. In a game I do not have the Chargers winning, the Chargers should spend all 60 minutes giving Herbert chances to get the ball downfield.
Justin Jefferson u101.5 Receiving Yards (-120 BetMGM)
Conversely, the Chargers are at least theoretically set up pretty well to limit the air game. Edge duo Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack have dealt with some injuries over the years, but when healthy, they’re two of the most talented pass rushers in the game, but it is worth noting that Bosa is listed as questionable for Sunday. The secondary also has some talent, including Asante Samuel Jr. and Michael Davis at corner, and Derwin James at safety. The team’s pass defense metrics have been dragged down a bit by opening against the unbelievably effective Dolphins air attack, but this should be a capable unit.
They cannot, however, do absolutely anything to slow the run, with the league’s worst run defense by EPA, below even the Chicago Bears. The Vikings have struggled to run the ball almost as much, although facing Vita Vea and then Jalen Carter can absolutely do that to a team. They brought in Cam Akers this week, signaling an intent to improve that area of the game and run a more balanced option. With this in mind, let’s fade Justin Jefferson just a bit, as his receiving total is set very high at 101.5. He’s obviously a player who can rip by that, but as the first player to open a season with two games of 150+ yards, the dip has to come eventually, so this is a great opportunity to sell high, especially as the Vikings look not only to prioritize the run a bit more, but also work in rookie wideout Jordan Addison, who has had a very promising first couple of games.
Cameron Dicker Over 1.5 Field Goals Made (-110)
As repeat readers know, we love defense and special teams props here, and with defensive props currently hard to find, as they often are, let’s dig into second-year Chargers kicker Cameron Dicker. After going undrafted and then bouncing around with four teams last preseason and early into the regular season, “Dicker the Kicker” seems to have found a home in LA. Over the past two regular seasons as a Charger, he’s drilled 24 of his 25 field goal attempts, including every single one of less than 50 yards, as well as all of his extra points, providing the Chargers with much-needed stability at the position.
Finishing drives is going to be an issue for the Chargers without Ekeler, who led the NFL in scrimmage touchdowns last year and the year before with totals of 18 and 20, respectively. You could see that issue manifest itself instantly last week, as Dicker went 3/3 on field goals, with the longest of the bunch being just 33 yards. The Chargers had three other drives that cracked midfield but came just short of Dicker’s range, further illustrating the issue. He should have plenty of chances against the Vikings, as the Chargers still have every ability to move the ball but still don’t really have a great plan for finishing drives.
Greg Joseph Over 2.5 Extra Points Made (-105)
Conversely, the Vikings should have no issue finishing drives against a Chargers front seven that has been a compete letdown. Cousins has been surgical thus far, and with Jefferson, Addison, and tight end TJ Hockenson in the mix, it’s not hard to see why. Throw in a potentially resurgent run game, and this Vikings team should create ample PAT opportunities for Joseph, who has drilled nearly 90% of his tries as a Viking, and all six so far this season. It’s worth noting for both this prop and Dicker’s that indoor environments, like Minnesota’s stadium, are generally a positive for kickers, as the elements are very controlled.