The Minnesota Vikings host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in an inter-conference battle between two teams that appear to be heading in opposite directions. The Vikings are 2-2 coming off their bye, while the Chiefs’ season is on the brink.
The Chiefs sank to 1-4 after blowing a 17-3 lead to the Chicago Bears, but the bigger loss came in the backfield. Star running back Jamaal Charles tore his ACL in Week 5 and is out for the rest of the season. Charles had been carrying the offense as usual, recording 541 total yards and five touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Charles’ absence leaves a gaping hole in an offense that was already struggling to move the ball, ranking 18th in rushing yards and 21st in passing yards per game. Backups Charcandrick West and Knile Davis will attempt to pick up the slack, but there will be more pressure on Alex Smith. With the offensive line still struggling and Smith playing his usual brand of risk-averse football, things could get ugly.
Another concern for the Chiefs should be their defense. One of the league’s top units last season is just middling in 2015, ranking 27th in passing yards allowed and 31st in points allowed per game. A good part of the blame lies on the offense for failing to sustain drives and keeping a tired defense on the field (the Bears dominated time of possession, 33:37 to 26:23, in their comeback win), but that problem will be only compounded with Charles out.
The Vikings were one of the top preseason darlings in football circles, being picked by many to make a surprise playoff run. They haven’t quite lived up to their billing, but are still in the hunt at 2-2 and coming off a bye week.
The biggest question mark heading into Minnesota’s season was how Adrian Peterson would look coming off a lost season. Peterson has responded by looking just like his old self, rushing for 372 yards and three touchdowns on 5.0 yards per carry through the first four games.
Peterson’s emergence has helped second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is still going through growing pains and has mostly settled in as a game manager. He’s thrown just two touchdown passes in four games while averaging 6.6 yards per attempt, which ranks him 24th out of 35 qualified quarterbacks.
The Vikings’ offense ranks just 31st in the league in passing yards per game. Wide receiver Mike Wallace was acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, but he hadn’t done much until Week 4, when he scored his first touchdown of the season. Charles Johnson has been a major disappointment and is still out with a rib injury. It hasn’t been a major issue with Peterson clicking, but if Minnesota has any playoff aspirations this year, it needs to be less one-dimensional on offense.
The Vikings are a flawed team and the deficiencies on offense can be exploited, while the Chiefs lost their most important playmaker. This has the makings of a defensive struggle, with the early OddsShark line favoring the Vikings by 4 points and the over/under set at just 44.5.
How to Watch
When: 1 p.m. ET
Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn.
Announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Stacey Dales
Online: NFL Game Pass