NFL Pick: Minnesota Vikings vs. San Diego Chargers
NFL Point Spread: Chargers -9
The Minnesota Vikings have a veteran quarterback under center again this year, but it isn’t Brett Favre. Donovan McNabb will start the season as the signal caller for the Vikings. The San Diego Chargers have one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks in Phillip Rivers. San Diego missed the playoffs last year, but they are still one of the favorites to reach the Super Bowl from the AFC this season. Can San Diego avoid the slow starts that have hurt them badly in recent years?
Donovan McNabb’s time in Washington didn’t go well at all, but he’ll get another shot in Minnesota. McNabb is 34 years old so his window may be closing, but the Vikings were willing to give him a shot as they get Christian Ponder ready for the future. The good news for McNabb is that Adrian Peterson will make life easier on any quarterback. Peterson runs as hard as anyone in the NFL. I expect a big year from Peterson this season. Percy Harvin is a nice weapon as a slot receiver as well. On the flip side, the Vikings have one of the worst offensive lines in all of football, and that is liable to get exposed more than ever this year.
The Minnesota defense was one of the best in the league a couple years ago, but they have taken a couple steps back. Pat Williams may be 38 years old, but losing him in the middle of the defensive line was a big loss. Chad Greenway and E.J. Henderson are solid linebackers, but they’ll probably have to shed more blocks this season. Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin are both very good corners, but the Vikings don’t have much depth in the secondary.
How can a team possibly manage to be ranked first in both total offense and total defense, but not make the playoffs? The San Diego Chargers managed to do just that last season. The single biggest reason for that was their horrific special teams play. In the past decade in the NFL, I have never seen special teams play as poor as the Chargers had last year. One has to assume they’ll be a little better this year. Rivers has established himself as an elite quarterback, and he’ll have Vincent Jackson back as a real threat on the outside. Antonio Gates has lost a step, but he’s still a tremendous tight end. Ryan Matthews was injured quite a bit last year, but I think he has the ability to be a quality runner for the Chargers.
San Diego’s defense was very good last year, and they got even better during the offseason. I like Cory Liuget to help out quite a bit on the defensive line. Takeo Spikes has been a solid linebacker for many years now, and he should help shore up the run defense. Bob Sanders is one of the best safeties in the NFL when he is healthy, and the Chargers were wise to take a flier on him.
The Vikings have obviously taken some steps backwards, but this isn’t a bad Minnesota team. Nine points is a huge spread in the NFL, and in this case I feel most comfortable taking the points.
Free NFL Pick: Vikings +9