Five things to watch in Sunday’s sure-to-be-epic Vikings vs. Chargers clash:
1. Bryan Walters
The UDFA from Cornell turned a lot of heads in camp and is now set to be the Chargers’ slot man with Patrick Crayton injured. He looked pretty dang good in the preseason tape I watched, a lot of it from the Cardinals game where he caught 5 balls for 61 yards including a couple of first down grabs from Philip Rivers. He did have a fairly glaring drop in that game as well but overall he looked like a tough little slot man who could show up big catching quick underneath stuff with the Vikings dropping their coverage deep to deal with Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd. Antoine Winfield will, as always, be lined up against the slot man in nickel. It will be interesting to see how young Walters fares in that match-up.
2. Mike Tolbert
The Chargers are going with a two-headed beast at running back, and Tolbert is the bowling ball half of that combo, Ryan Mathews being the speedy half. I think the Chargers will try to run Tolbert and Mathews right at the middle of the Vikings defense and test out those tackles, but I also think Tolbert could be a big weapon in the passing game. The Vikings figure to employ their usual strategy of playing their safeties and corners deep which means there will be lots of stuff open short: in other words, feast time for tight ends and receiving backs.
3. Bob Sanders
Everyone wants to talk about Adrian Peterson’s 296-yard game against the Chargers. Well if San Diego had had Bob Sanders in that game, Peterson would not have run for 296 yards. Bob Sanders vs. Adrian Peterson is the kind of epic match-up football fans live for. Sanders may be aging and coming off years of injuries but he’s still got the tackling skill and reckless abandon to make things very interesting. And speaking of reckless abandon…last I looked AD was still pretty much a maniac on the field. Peterson v. Sanders is like a game of chicken between two kamikaze pilots.
4. Rushing Rivers
If the Vikings don’t get to Philip Rivers early, look for them to get really desperate and start blitzing. I can’t think of very many things more terrifying than the thought of Phil Rivers standing in the pocket, unmolested, choosing whether to hit Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd or Antonio Gates, unless it’s Aaron Rodgers doing the same with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley. Okay I just totally psyched myself out. They better get some pressure on Rivers or this could be a massacre. Fred Pagac better have something special lurking in his bag of tricks.
What. A. Douche.