(CBS Minnesota) — The NFC North remains a three-team race, believe it or not. The Minnesota Vikings sit one game behind the Green Bay Packers, who lead the division, and two games ahead of the Chicago Bears, who are still mathematically alive. The Packers and the Bears play each other in Week 15. The Vikings will then play the former in Week 16 and the latter in Week 17. The division can’t be clinched Sunday.
By the time the Vikings play the Chargers in Los Angeles, the terrain in the NFC North may have already shifted. Regardless of who wins the early game, the Vikings need to take care of business in the later game. And the matchup lines up nicely for them.
As SportsLine NFL analyst Kenny White notes, “we talk a lot about the Chargers not having a home-field advantage since they moved from San Diego to LA. It has not been a very good ATS [against the spread] record for them at home, just 7-18-1. And there will be more Minnesota Vikings fans in the stands this weekend than there will be Charger fans. It has been a negative to play at home for the Chargers.”
The Chargers are coming off a 45-10 blowout win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Philip Rivers threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns. Austin Ekeler topped 100 yards both rushing and receiving. While it was a nice win, it was also “…against Jacksonville, a team who, I think, has given up on their head coach,” as White describes them. “They have not played good football. So the Chargers just fell into the right situation. They’d lost their three previous games. This is going to be a tough one this week against the Vikings.”
Another important point is that the Chargers, who have a losing record, at 5-8, are already eliminated from the playoffs. Philip Rivers may be on his way out, and they don’t have all that much to play for. The Vikings, on the other hand, have a lot to play for, namely playoff position and possibly an NFC North title.
Still, Minnesota comes into the matchup as 2.5-point favorites. As one of the league’s more balanced teams, the Vikings have won three of their last four. Dalvin Cook’s production has dropped off, but Kirk Cousins remains consistent. The defense gave up a lot of points to the Seattle Seahawks but is perfectly capable of slowing down the Chargers.
According to White, “the Chargers have a losing record, so that fits well for the Minnesota Vikings. They beat up on bad teams. I think this is a great spot for them. I just mentioned the stat about the Chargers at home. You can add home-field advantage to the Vikings, because I know there will be more Minnesota Vikings fans. It will be purple and gold in that stadium this weekend. Bet the Vikings this week.”
The Vikings play the Chargers Sunday @ 3:05 p.m. CT on CBS.