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Vikings-Chargers matchup of the day: Friday

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Posted Sept. 09, 2011 @ 7:37 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

Here's a key matchup to watch in Sunday's Vikings-Chargers game:

Vikings PR Marcus Sherels vs. Chargers punt coverage

Odd matchup? Not really when you think about it. The Chargers were miserable in this department last season, ranking dead last in the NFL in punt coverage with an average allowed of 18.9 yards, which is fairly unbelievable. That in part led to the dismissal of Steve Crosby and the hiring of a new coordinator, Richard Bisaccia, who is considered one of the best in the NFL.

The results in the preseason were better, although there is still room for improvement. Opponents averaged 11.4 yards per punt return on seven returns, but the good news is that there were five fair catches. Bisaccia clearly is aiming for better hang time to allow his punt team to get down and force a lot of fair catches. Last season, in 35 punt-return chances, there were only seven fair catches called for total.

Sherels won the job from Jaymar Johnson in the preseason. His overal numbers were not great, averaging 5.3 yards per return, but he showed good consistency and the ability to make the first man miss in training-camp practices.

If the Vikings are going to win this game, they will need some help from the special teams. A long punt return or two really could spark the offense to better field position, or perhaps a score.

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