Minnesota Vikings (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS), 4:15 p.m. EST, NFL Week 1, Sunday, September 11, 2011, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California, TV: FOX
by Scotty L, Professional Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Min +8.5/SD 8.5
Over/Under Total: 41
The Minnesota Vikings travel far West to take on the San Diego Chargers in Week 1. It might look strange to see the Vikings playing in sunny San Diego. They will look a bit out of place in this semi-rare meeting between these 2 franchises. The Chargers won their last meeting in 2007, 35-17, despite Adrian Peterson running for a record 296 yards. Minnesota will be in good stead, however, if the Chargers duplicate their early-season form of the past 4 seasons.
Reviewing the past several years, its clear that the Chargers take a while to get cooking. In the 2007-2008 regular season, they began 5-5, before winning their final 6 games. In 08-09, they began 4-8, before winning their final 4. In 09-10, they began 2-3, then proceeded to win each of their final 11 games. And last year, after a 2-5 start, the Chargers closed winning 7 of their final 9. Then again, you cant be sure that will happen again this season. Sometimes, we can lock onto a pattern only to see it suddenly come to an end. Either way, those numbers cant help but raise eyebrows.
Most of the big guns are back for the Chargers, who endured endless bad breaks and still managed to soldier to a 9-7 record. You can feel the window of opportunity closing on the Chargers, but you can almost count on the fact that they wont catch all the bad luck they suffered through last season. The contract disputes, mind-numbing amount of injuries, and a slapstick special teams squad crippled this team. They eventually emerged and the timing seems right for a good Chargers season. You can never be too sure about the Bolts, though.
As much as the Vikings were buoyed by Brett Favre 2 seasons ago, last season was an unmitigated disaster. They spent the bulk of the 2010-2011 campaign wrapped up in the Favre saga, mostly to negative affect. Coach Brad Childress got canned after the 10th game and Leslie Frazier came in to admirably steady the ship and go 3-3. It seems like this team is ready to move on and they are not without hope.
Proven winner Donovan McNabb might not be quite what he once was, but hes a reasonably close facsimile. Adrian Petersons numbers have been in decline for the past 3 seasons, but he still put up 1298 yards and 12 touchdowns, while rushing at a 4.6 clip. Longtime Falcon Michael Jenkins and Bernard Berrian are mid-level pass catchers who could help out, but Percy Harvin is the featured guy in this crew and the success of the Vikings passing game will be tied to how well he does, particularly if he can become a bit more consistent. Bill Musgraves new offense could breathe some new life into this team.
Both teams have robust defenses. The Chargers actually led the league in fewest points allowed and was number-one against the pass. Watching them play week after week, however, it was clear they could be more clutch in key situations. Minnesota only gave up a slim 21.8 points per game, ranking in the top-third in most categories.
The Vikings will need a good D to keep all of San Diegos weapons in check. TE Antonio Gates should be ready to go. WR Vincent Jackson is in the swing of things and the Chargers could have one of the deepest crew of pass catchers in the league. Optimists surely like what theyre seeing from 2nd-year tailback Ryan Mathews this preseason. With big back Michael Tolbert coming off a nice season, this pair of backs should give the pass-happy Chargers a more consistent running attack in 11.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: When dealing with the Chargers, know this is one of the more schizophrenic franchises in sport. They seem to operate in the Bizarro World. Often times, they take the field and render all analysis and assessment moot. Fans in San Diego will attest to the mind games this team has played with them over the years.
But for hope to be tore down, first it must be built. The Chargers have a way of leaving fans crestfallen, but only after building them up with a series of promising triumphs. Look for the Chargers to exorcise their early-season demons a bit this season. We never know exactly what we have in week 1, but the feeling here is that the Vikings will be hard-pressed to keep this within two touchdowns. Take San Diego minus 8.5 points.
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