The Minnesota Vikings continue their playoff push in Week 15 as they head to the West Coast to face the Los Angeles Chargers. Kickoff is set for 4:05 EST on Sunday, December 15 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Fans in Southern California, NFC North markets, and a few other places will be able to watch the game on CBS.
According to the Week 15 NFL odds, the Vikings are 2.5-point favorites on the road. The game also has an over/under of 44.5 points.
Heading into Week 15, Minnesota remains in good shape to earn a playoff spot. But they can’t afford to slip up late in the season. The Vikings did well to bounce back from a Monday night loss to the Seahawks with a convincing home win over the Lions last week. The win got them to 9-4 on the season but leaves them a game behind the Packers in the NFC North.
The Vikings will get a rematch with the Packers next Monday, giving them a chance to overtake Green Bay in the division. However, having lost to the Packers earlier this year, they can’t afford to fall two games back. That makes this week’s game with the Chargers a must-win for Minnesota. The good news is that this is their last road game of the season, as the Vikings come home to host the Packers and Bears to close out the season.
As for the Chargers, the good news is that they snapped their three-game losing streak with a convincing 45-10 road win over the Jaguars last week. The bad news is that it wasn’t enough to keep them alive in the playoff hunt. At 5-8, Los Angeles is officially eliminated from playoff contention.
After going 12-4 last year, this season has been a massive letdown for the Chargers, who have endured two separate three-game losing streaks. Knowing that they’ve been eliminated after starting the year with such high expectations, it’ll be interesting to see if the Chargers are able to stay motivated late in the season and embrace the chance to play the role of spoiler for another team.
The Chargers showed last week that they’re still capable of living up to their potential. However, I take that performance with a grain of salt because it came against a Jacksonville team that’s spiraling late in the season. Los Angeles is just 2-4 at home this season, with all four of those losses coming by seven points. Even as a home underdog, I don’t have much faith in the Chargers, pushing me toward the Vikings to win by at least a field goal on the road.
Philip Rivers is coming off perhaps his best performance of the season a week ago, completing 16 of his 22 passes for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the norm this season. His 15 interceptions over 13 games are one of the biggest reasons why Los Angeles has been one of the worst teams in the NFL this year when it comes to ball security. Eight of those interceptions came in the three games leading up to last week’s win. That leaves me unconvinced that Rivers can put together a quality performance in consecutive weeks.
The Minnesota defense is another reason why I think Rivers will revert back to the quarterback he’s been for most of the season. The Vikings had some issues with Russell Wilson a couple of weeks ago, but they aren’t the first to have that problem. The Vikings have held seven of their 13 opponents to 20 points or less this season. They’re more than capable of clamping down on a flawed offensive team and have the players who can capitalize on opportunities to create takeaways.
On the other side of the ball, I’m expecting a good game from the Minnesota offense. The Vikings ducked an injury scare with Dalvin Cook, who has found the end zone in four straight games. They are also poised to finally get Adam Thielen back from injury this week. Even if Thielen has some rust to shake off, he’s still someone that opposing defenses have to respect, opening the door for Stefon Diggs to do some damage now that the Vikings have a second receiving threat on the outside.
Meanwhile, I’m not going to overreact to the Los Angeles defense holding the Jaguars to 10 points last week. To be fair, the Chargers are giving up less than 20 points per game on the season and have a devastating pass rush. But if they can’t stop Cook and the Minnesota rushing attack, they won’t be able to unleash the full force of that pass rush. Plus, Kirk Cousins has been far more reliable than Rivers this year when it comes to ball security, limiting himself to just four interceptions.
In the end, I think the Chargers can make this a game, but I don’t trust them to avoid costly turnovers. I also favor Cousins and his playmakers more than Rivers, who has been too up and down this season. As long as the spread is less than a field goal, I feel comfortable leaning toward the Vikings to cover.