Just a few weeks ago, the Vikings game against the Chargers looked very winnable. After four weeks, they were projected to finish under .500 and had absorbed some ugly losses. Now, they look like one of the best teams in the NFL and a likely playoff team.
After getting handled by the Chiefs in San Diego, the Chargers have finally started to play up to their talent. They're now in the top 5 in DVOA, are 9th in offensive DVOA and are 14th in defensive DVOA. They've won their last three games by a combined score of 104-27. Neither the bye week nor the wildfires could slow them down.
While Houston, Oakland and Denver all have worse defenses than the Vikings by DVOA. Only Oakland has a better pass defense than the Vikings, and none of them stop the run as well as the Vikings (you already knew that though).
Offensively, the Vikings are about as good at throwing the ball as Houston and Oakland, which is to say, that Houston and Oakland suck at throwing as well. Tarvaris Jackson will be back under center on Sunday, but will likely be without his leading receiver, Bobby Wade. That should mean more running plays, hopefully, which means more Purple Jesus and more Chester Taylor and hopefully more success. The Vikings will only be the second team the Chargers have faced this year with a potent rushing attack (New England being the other). It might not be enough to generate some offense for the Purple, but it's a reason to hope, which is better than nothing.
The Chargers took a little time to adjust to Norv Turner, but based on their last three games, they seem to have finally got it. That doesn't bode well for the Vikings, seeing as how the Chargers are amongst the most talented teams in the NFL.
[Tomorrow, I'll have more on Sunday's game, including a baseless, optimistic prediction, as well as thoughts on Bollinger v. Jackson and why Phillip Rivers might just be the difference maker in a Vikings win...]