The Vikings and Chargers continue their preseason slate of games with a contest against one another on Sunday afternoon. The game will be the first hosted by the brand new U.S. Bank Stadium and it will be televised nationally by FOX, with kickoff slated for 12:00 p.m. (CT). Here are five storylines to chase in the buildup to Sunday's game, the third of the preseason for each club.
1. Home Sweet Home
It's finally time to #OpentheGates. The Metrodome was knocked down after the 2013 season and the Vikings played the 2014 and 2015 seasons at the University of Minnesota as construction of a new stadium took place. Now, with the 2016 regular season just weeks away, the Vikings will open up U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday. The 1.75-million square foot structure boasts the largest ETFE roof and the first on a stadium in the country, five of the largest pivoting glass doors in the world and the closes seats and suits to game action in the NFL. There have been galas, concerts and soccer games in U.S. Bank Stadium to this point, but now it's time for some football.
2. Will Bridgewater be Back?
QB Teddy Bridgewater was a surprise late scratch from last week's game in Seattle and then he didn't practice until Tuesday. Add in the facts that Shaun Hill missed a couple practices and the Vikings signed a free agent QB, and one can see why there's been so much focus on the position over the last several days. On Tuesday, though, both Bridgewater and Hill were back at practice and the offense was up and running. If he plays on Sunday, Bridgewater will look to build on what was a solid debut outing in Cincinnati a couple weeks ago. He was 6 of 7 for 92 yards and a touchdown – the 49-yarder to WR Charles Johnson.
3. Pass Rush Looks to Stay Hot
A strength of the Vikings defense under head coach Mike Zimmer has been rushing the passer, and this year's two preseason games have been no exception. The Vikings have tallied eight sacks so far this preseason, including six against the Seahawks last week; four of those came against the elusive Russell Wilson. Last year in their regular season game against the Chargers, the Vikings sacked QB Philip Rivers four times and hit him 13, with DE Everson Griffen feasting most often. Playing in front of their home crowd for the first time this year and on the fast track of U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings pass rush will look to stay hot against San Diego.
4. On the Run
The ground game is a point of emphasis for the Vikings – on both defense and offense. Zimmer has mentioned several times since the end of last season that he wants his defense to perform well against the run, particularly on early downs. So far in the preseason, the Vikings are allowing 138.5 rushing yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. Offensively, the Vikings top threat in the running game is Adrian Peterson and he hasn't suited up for a preseason game yet. Without the NFL's best runner, the Vikings are averaging 63.0 yards per game and 2.5 per carry. The good news is Zimmer said earlier in the week that the run blocking showed signs of improvement against Seattle, giving the offense something upon which to build in preparation for Sunday's game.
5. Quick Turnaround to Preseason Finale
The Vikings will play their first game in their new stadium and then turnaround quickly for another game at U.S. Bank Stadium four days later. That game will be against the Los Angeles Rams and it will mark the conclusion of the preseason. All teams must reduce their roster from 90 players to 75 on Tuesday, August 30 in advance of their final preseason game. Teams will each finish the preseason and then must have their rosters reduced to 53 players by Saturday, September 3. The Vikings open the regular season on Sunday, September 11 with a game in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans. They then return home for the regular season opener against Green Bay on Sunday evening, September 18.