Vikings vs. Chargers Odds, Predictions, NFL Picks: Minnesota Has Value as Week 10 Road Underdog
Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Kirk Cousins.
- After opening at Chargers -2.5, the line currently remains at L.A. -3.5 across most books as of early Sunday afternoon.
- The Vikings have a 27% chance of making playoffs after their 3-5 start to the season.
- When he's on a two-game losing streak, Mike Zimmer is 11-3 ATS and this could be a last stand for him and the Vikings.
|Time||4:05 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
At 3-5, the Minnesota Vikings are currently tied for ninth place of the NFC playoff race. FiveThirtyEight gives them a 27% chance to make the playoffs, but they’ll only have themselves to blame if they fall short.
Since their inception, the Vikings have had a history of unforced errors, yet that bugaboo seems to be even more prevalent this season. One only has to revisit their past two games to see more examples of their self-inflicted losses.
In Week 8, after taking a 16-13 lead with 2:51 left in the game against the Cowboys, the Vikings allowed a career backup quarterback in Cooper Rush to march down 75 yards and lead the Cowboys to a 20-16 victory on Sunday Night Football.
They followed that performance by blowing two double-digit leads against the Ravens before ultimately losing 34-31 in overtime. Three of the Vikings’ eight games required overtime this season, and they’re 1-2 in those contests.
If Minnesota is ever going to turn their season around, it has to start in Week 10 on the road against the Chargers. Will the Vikings finally make a stand on Sunday?
Let’s take a look at the matchup.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Vikings vs. Chargers Injury Report
- LB Anthony Barr (knee): Out
- DT Michael Pierce (elbow): Out
- CB Bashaud Breeland (groin): Questionable
- DE Kenny Willekes (reserve/COVID-19): Questionable
- CB Ryan Smith (knee): Out
- CB Michael Davis (hamstring): Doubtful
- RB Justin Jackson (quad): Doubtful
- WR Keenan Allen (knee): Questionable
- S Nasir Adderley (ankle): Questionable
- DB Mark Webb Jr. (knee): Questionable
- OLB Joey Bosa (ankle): Questionable
Vikings vs. Chargers Matchup
|Vikings Offense||DVOA Rank||Chargers Defense|
|Vikings Defense||DVOA Rank||Chargers Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
What’s To Blame For Vikings’ Slow Start?
It might come as a surprise to you, but despite their 3-5 record, the Minnesota Vikings are 11th in Football Outsiders overall DVOA metric. Who knows where they’d be without quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has thrown for 2,140 yards with 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
However, despite those gaudy numbers, Cousins is only 12th in the league with a Total QBR of 55.5. That’s because it’s been a struggle to convert all those pretty stats into actual wins for the Vikings.
As a team, the Vikings continue to struggle in the fourth quarter. According to rbsdm.com, Minnesota’s offense is 27th in this spot, with -0.08 expected points added (EPA) per play. The rushing attack also hasn’t been there late in the game, with the Vikings ranked 29th with a -0.286 rush EPA.
Cousins deserves some of the blame also, considering that Minnesota is 21st in dropback EPA (0.036).
But for me, all this comes down to coaching, which is why Mike Zimmer’s tenure with the team could end after this season.
Perhaps the one glimmer of hope you could see for the Vikings in this game is their pass defense. Los Angeles is a pass-happy offense, ranking sixth with a pass-play rate of 64.23%. That feels like quite a bit of pressure heaped on the shoulders of the second-year quarterback Justin Herbert. To his credit, he’s been able to handle it thus far, as evidenced by his 2,350 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 64.2 Total QBR.
Nonetheless, the Vikings should have the personnel in the secondary to be able to compete. PFF ranks them sixth in pass coverage with a 71.8 rating and eighth in pass rush with a 76.7 rating.
The real question will be whether Chargers first-year head coach Brandon Staley will be patient enough to feature more of a rushing attack against a Vikings defense that’s 26th in DVOA against the run.
However, I don’t foresee this leopard changing his spots when he has a potent weapon like Herbert at his disposal. But Staley might want to rethink that because the Chargers have played two games this season against teams (Cowboys and Patriots) in the top ten of pass defense DVOA, and they’ve yet to produce a win in this spot. The Vikings will be their third.
Chargers’ Herbert Avoiding Sophomore Slump
One way to slow down the Chargers’ offense is to keep Herbert on the sidelines. Minnesota can do that with a commitment to running the football. I always try to look at the raw numbers because I was surprised to see the Vikings ranked 29th in rush DVOA.
Per TeamRankings, the Vikings are ninth in rushing yards per game (124.9) and rushing yards per attempt (4.6). However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Minnesota’s rushing attack is downgraded severely because of its -0.152 rush EPA, which is only good enough for 28th in the league.
Nonetheless, the Vikings offense is more balanced than the Chargers as they’re 17th with a run-play rate of 40.98%. We saw the Browns put up 230 rushing yards against the Chargers and still lose the game because they weren’t as strong in pass coverage.
After pouring over the stats, this game very well could be decided on third down, where Los Angeles is eighth in converting 44.12% of those opportunities. At the same time, Minnesota is fifth in allowing opponents to convert just 33.66% of the time.
Since teams often throw the ball to the sticks on third down, I think Minnesota’s performance on third down is truly a credit to its pass defense. However, if I’m honest, it’s probably more likely that this game comes down to a play here or there in the fourth quarter.
Both teams seem to be on diverging parts when the lights shine the brightest. Part of the reason why Staley has so much confidence in his young quarterback is that Herbert has guided the Chargers to the highest EPA/play (0.237) of any team in the fourth quarter.
And just so you know, these numbers are indeed reflective of his skillset. Herbert also ranks fourth with a 0.329 dropback EPA. Thus, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Chargers are third in the fourth quarter, scoring 9.6 points per game, while the Vikings are woefully ranked 30th with an average of 4.8 per game.
Given the numbers we’ve discussed, it’s hard to put much faith in Cousins leading his team to victory in the fourth quarter. Instead, the Vikings defense will likely have to step up and make a play for Minnesota to have a chance in the ballgame. Minnesota’s defense has shown a propensity to turn teams over as they’re tied for fourth in the league +0.8 turnover margin.
NFL Pick: Vikings vs. Chargers
I figured I’d wait until the conclusion to discuss the injury report because I couldn’t understand why the Chargers were as high as a 3.5-point favorite at BetMGM. Both my power ratings and model projections make the Chargers no more than a 2.5- to 2.75-point favorite.
However, the three players on the Vikings’ injury report are all starters. Breeland certainly could play, considering he was a limited participant in practice this week. Barr and Pierce are already ruled out, meaning each level of the Vikings defense will be dealing with an injury.
As for the Chargers, their most significant issues are in the secondary, with starting cornerback Michael Davis doubtful and backup cornerback Ryan Smith done for the season (ACL). Though, they will get Asante Samuel Jr. back as he’s now out of the concussion protocol.
When you factor in the injuries on both sides, I can understand the line moving in favor of the Chargers. However, Armon Watts and Blake Lynch could step in to replace Barr and Pierce. Both Watts and Lynch have a higher PFF grade this season than Barr and Pierce.
Thus, I’m not sure I’m ready to fade Mike Zimmer, who’s 70-49-1 ATS for +17.17 units. Furthermore, when Zimmer’s on a two-game losing streak, he is 11-3 ATS for 7.19 units.
This could be the absolute last stand for Zimmer and the Vikings, so give me the 3.5 points with the road underdog.
Pick: Vikings +3.5 | Bet to +3
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