Vikings-Chargers matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Sept. 07, 2011 @ 8:58 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Here's a key matchup for Sunday's Vikings-Chargers game:

Chargers QB Philip Rivers vs. Vikings corners

Rivers executes one of the more efficient and dangerous passing attacks in the NFL, fully entrenched in Norv Turner's triple-digit system and steeped in talent with his top three targets returning this season. Last year, TE Antonio Gates and WRs Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd played together for a combined one quarter of action ... and Rivers and the Chargers still had the top-ranked offense in the NFL. This year, they could be off-the-charts good.

The Vikings have traditionally run a cover-2-heavy scheme under Leslie Frazier, but as he passes off many of the play-calling duties to new coordinator Fred Pagac, we might see a slight increase in blitzing this season. He showed a willingness to send more than four rushers toward the end of the season, which could carry over with less DL talent on the field in this game.

That puts the onus on CBs Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook to step up their games and be tighter in coverage. Winfield remains one of the game's best, and he can reroute his receivers and play press or off coverage, if asked. Typically, he's not thrown at as often, but with the potential height mismatch against Jackson — giving up nearly eight inches — there will be passes thrown his direction.

The biggest questions are with Cook and Griffin. Both men are coming off knee injuries, and though they appeared healthy in the offseason, there might still be some rust. The Chargers won't hesitate to test them from the first play of the game. Both corners have good size, and Griffin is aggressive and physical, so expect some double moves to be used against them. Cook has good skills, but he also had a few terrible games as a rookie and might see the most passes thrown his way.

Rivers is very good at rolling through his progressions and moving safeties with his eyes, so the corners' coverage must be extra tight.