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5 Vikings-Chargers Storylines to Watch

The Vikings (9-4) and Chargers (5-8) are meeting in Los Angeles for the first time in the history of their series that began in 1971.

Remarkably, neither team has notched consecutive victories in the first 12 games.

Minnesota will try to change that at 3:05 p.m. (CT) Sunday.

Originally scheduled for NBC's Sunday Night Football, the game has been reverse-flexed to CBS because NBC claimed the Bills-Steelers game for its national audience.

Here are five Vikings-Chargers storylines to watch this week:

1. Controlling destiny

The Vikings enter Week 15 of the regular season as the No. 6 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Minnesota is unable to capture a playoff berth this week, but it can stay in control of the opportunity to play January football by finishing December with three more wins. The Vikings need a little help from the Bears or Lions against the Packers on either side of Green Bay's annual trip to Minnesota in order to win the NFC North. Chicago visits Green Bay for a noon (CT) matchup that will be over — or nearing its end — by the time the Vikings or Chargers tee up the opening kick in Los Angeles. Expect the messaging to center on the current task at-hand, which brings us to the next storyline, the Chargers are better than their record.

2. Out but not down

Los Angeles was eliminated from the AFC Playoffs on Sunday in spite of pasting Jacksonville 45-10. The blowout wasn't enough to undo a bevy of close losses. All eight of the games dropped by the Chargers have been by seven or fewer points and by a combined 39 points. L.A. might be out, but don't expect the team to be down. Even though the Chargers were not able to replicate their success of 2018 when they won 12 games and a Wild Card game, the expectation is that Philip Rivers will still be feisty.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Chargers.

3. Rivers rolled last week, has weapons

Rivers celebrated his 38th birthday on Sunday with a career-best passer rating of 154.4. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. His touchdowns were 30 yards to tight end Hunter Henry, 84 to Austin Ekeler and 44 to Mike Williams, illustrating the multiple options that L.A. has on offense. The Chargers are the only team in the NFL in 2019 with four players who have at least 500 receiving yards. Receiver Keenan Allen leads the Chargers with 81 receptions and 947 yards. Ekeler leads the team in receiving touchdowns with eight. Williams is averaging a league-leading 21.0 yards per reception (841 on 40), but last week was his first receiving touchdown of the season. Henry has 536 yards and four scores on 43 catches. The Vikings have been focusing on their pass defense, particularly since a self-scout during their Week 12 bye. Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he is seeing signs of improvement. Minnesota limited Detroit to 161 net passing yards by third-string QB David Blough last week, but that was at home against a QB who was making his second career start. Rivers is an eight-time Pro Bowler who is 123-98 in 221 career starts.

4. Protecting the rock is paramount

The Vikings have fumbled 26 times and lost 11. Their opponents have fumbled 11 times and lost seven of them. The only team that has lost more fumbles than Minnesota and with a winning record is Seattle (lost 13 of 23 fumbles), but the Seahawks have recovered 16 of the 22 fumbles committed by their opponents, including two of three by the Vikings on Dec. 2. Five other teams — the Giants (15), Eagles (14), Panthers (13), Bengals (12) and Jaguars (11) — that have lost as many or more fumbles than the Vikings are a combined 18-47. Minnesota has recorded 13 interceptions and only suffered four this season. The Chargers, by the way, have lost seven of 16 fumbles and recovered three of 14 by opponents. Rivers has been intercepted 15 times. The Chargers have picked off nine passes.

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5. Reversing West Coast fortunes

This is the first time that Minnesota has played in Los Angeles in consecutive seasons since 1992-93 against the Rams and Raiders, respectively. Both of those teams left the City of Angels after the 1994 season. The Rams returned in 2016, and the Chargers moved from San Diego in 2017. The Vikings lost to the Rams last year and are 1-4 in their past five games on the West Coast, dating to the 2015 season opener at San Francisco. Minnesota won in Oakland against the Raiders later that season but has dropped contests in Seattle the past two Decembers. The Vikings started strongly against the Seahawks this year but had a disastrous third quarter before making a valiant rally in the fourth quarter.

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