The Vikings play their final road game of their regular season in Los Angeles against the Chargers.
After getting flexed out of Sunday Night Football, the two teams will kick off at 3:05. With the Bears and Packers playing at noon, there's a lot riding on Minnesota's outcome. A Vikings win, combined with a Packers loss, means the NFC North will be up for grabs next week when Green Bay comes to town.
Here are three keys and staff predications for the Vikings' Week 15 tilt with the Chargers.
1. Thielen goes off
After missing the last two months with a hamstring issue, Adam Thielen will be active against the Chargers.
Although Minnesota won the majority of their games without its star receiver, Thielen's presence has been missed. With Thielen out, rookie receiver Bisi Johnson and former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell have been picking up the slack the best they can.
In eight games this season, Thielen has 27 receptions for 391 yards, seven touchdowns, while averaging 14.5 yards per catch.
With Cousins having both Stefon Diggs and Thielen on the outside, the Chargers should have their hands full. It is worth noting Los Angeles has the fourth best pass defense in the NFL, surrendering just 196.6 yards per game through the air.
At the same time, they likely haven't faced as a big of a threat as the Vikings posses on offense and with Cousins playing the best football of his career over the past few months, the Vikings will take plenty of shots.
2. Big dose of Dalvin
With Alexander Mattison ruled out because of a knee injury, the Vikings will have to rely on a heavy dosage of Dalvin Cook.
The third-year running back has 1,108 yards and a league-leading 13 rushing touchdowns this season. However, teams have found ways to slow him down in recent weeks. In Cook's last three games, he's averaging just 39 rushing yards and just 3.0 yards per attempt.
Luckily, he's still a threat in the passing game, as Cook has 50 receptions on the season for 503 yards, while averaging 10 yards per catch. The Chargers are also yielding 108 yards per game on the ground.
So even if he's not getting it done on the ground, Cook will be tough to contain.
3. Rivers chokes again
Poor Phillip Rivers. He's at the end of his career and is arguably the best active quarterback to have never won a Super bowl.
It's been a tough year for the Chargers, who are 5-8, despite a positive 38-point differential. All of their losses this season have come by less than seven points.
Meaning Rivers has had opportunities with the ball in his hands to lead a comeback drive but hasn't been able to come through. This week against the Vikings should be no different.
So when the Chargers have the ball with 1:20 to go, and one timeout remaining, Rivers will probably find another way to not come through.
Declan Goff, BMTN, Sports Writer
I don't think this is a gimmie for the Vikings by any means. It's on the road, and on grass, which is a surface Minnesota (12-17-1) has historically struggled on. That being said, this game will be close, but the Vikings should squeak out of California with a win. Having Thielen back in the fold will open up play calling and the Vikings head back home to close out the regular season. Final score: 21-20 Vikings.
Joe Nelson, BMTN, Sports Director
Don't let anyone tell you the Chargers are good. Behind a rogue win over the Packers, their next biggest accomplishment this season is finding a way to lose EIGHT games, all of them by a touchdown or less. These guys know how to lose, albeit they tend to put up a decent fight most weeks. Minnesota is a superior team and with Adam Thielen back in the mix and Xavier Rhodes getting fewer snaps as Mike Zimmer rotates cornerbacks, this is going to be a much needed Vikings road victory. Final score: Vikings 30, Chargers 17.
Adam Uren, BMTN Editor
The Vikings arrive for their home game at the brilliant named Dignity Health Sports Park in high spirits, all except for Xavier Rhodes, who was unable to follow the team's route and ends up in San Diego. Fortunately, Phillip Rivers still hasn't left home and is able to bring him up the coast to L.A. in his giant bus. The Vikings defense approaches the with one aim: We don't care who scores as long as it ain't Melvin Gordon. The former Wisconsin Badger is stuffed all game, compiling 5 yards on 17 carries. Spending December in Tinseltown, a returning Adam Thielen signs a deal for a movie about his ascent to the NFL – he went undrafted, you know? The Vikings win. Final score: Vikings 23, Chargers 17
Chris Schad, BMTN Sports Writer
Chris Schad: As the Packers will attest to, playing in L.A. is a trap game for many reasons. The Vikings will likely be playing in front of thousands of purple jerseys on Sunday, but they'll still have to deal with a defense that surprisingly ranks fourth against the pass and 16th against the run. The wild card for the Vikings will be the return of Adam Thielen. Just about every stat for the Vikings is better (including rushing offense) with Thielen in the lineup and although the 5-8 Chargers are much better than their record, I think the Vikings eek one out and hand L.A. their ninth loss this season by less than a touchdown. Final score: Vikings 28, Chargers 21
Blair Anderson, Vikings superfan
I feel like I'm looking into a mirror here because the Chargers lose games in every way imaginable. Hell, they lost their freaking team to L.A. just like the NFL threatened to do to the Vikings way back in the day! But the thing that I keep coming back to is the play of "YOLO" Philip Rivers. This dude should come out to the field with a YOLO chain and one of his 30 babies on each of his arm because he clearly will throw in any situation. It will take just one pass rush from Danielle Hunter or Everson Griffen to throw a YOLO ball into the arms of our secondary and although I think it will be close, the Vikings are going to escape from L.A. to set up a steel cage match with the Packers for the NFC North title. Final score: Vikings 31, Chargers 28 (L.A. misses FG as time expires.)