FBG says: Tough matchup. Minnesota's rushing attack is one of the league's highest-volume units in the NFL, rankings 3rd in total rushing attempts, 4th in rushing yardage, and 4th in rushing touchdowns, and the majority of this rushing production is via Dalvin Cook, the team's bell-cow running back. In close games, Dalvin Cook rarely leaves the field, regularly playing over 80-percent of snaps and tallying 20-carries when healthy, but in blowouts, rookie Alexander Mattison will spell Cook. In blowout victories, Mattison regularly registers double-digit rushing attempts, even as the team's backup. Additionally, Cook sustained a shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of the second half of the Vikings' Week 13 game against the Seattle Seahawks. Subsequently, Mattison played a large role in both Week 13 and 14, preserving the health of Cook, although he did play through the injury last week. Moving forward, expect Cook to continue to see a bell-cow-like workload in close games, like this weekend's game is expected to be, with Mattison available to provide relief as needed. Overall, this is a high-volume ground game with massive opportunity available for whoever carries the football.
The Chargers' run defense grades as a mediocre unit across the board this season. They have been forced to defend approximately league-average volume on the ground while permitting approximately league-average yardage at the same time. Overall, this unit has shown improvement in recent weeks, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry to opposing running backs over the last month. This improvement, which can largely be attributed to the return of key run-stoppers like Bryant Mebane and Justin Jones in the trenches, could spell trouble for the Minnesota Vikings in Week 15. Additionally, Derwin James' return to action two weeks ago adds another play-maker to the unit, as the young defensive back has flashed an incredible nose for the football during his time in the league. James will line up all over the field, even playing some linebacker last season in the playoffs, and his versatility provides incalculable value to this defense as a whole. The Chargers have allowed just 1 100-yard rusher since Week 6 (David Montgomery in a 27-carry game in Week 8,) and they are getting stronger as the season wears on. Expect this battle in the trenches to be one of the most entertaining of the season, as Minnesota is insistent upon establishing the ground game while the Chargers have proven to be a capable unit on that front.