By Dave Thomas

If the San Diego Chargers are looking to get back on the winning track this Sunday after last weekend’s loss in Cincinnati, it will take a better effort on the offensive line, holding Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater in check, and keeping the home crowd out of the game. Sounds easy, right?

San Diego (1-1) heads to Minnesota for its second straight road contest, meeting a Vikings squad that is also 1-1 after opening the season with a loss in San Francisco and a win against Detroit at home last weekend.

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Vikes Looking To Harass Rivers

The Vikings, who many predicted would finish third or possibly second in the NFC North this season, have some weapons on offense, but their focus will also be on the defensive side of the ball, as they try and shut down San Diego’s Philip Rivers and several of his receivers. Rivers became San Diego’s all-time touchdown passing leader last weekend (move ahead of Dan Fouts) with his 255th TD pass.

San Diego’s biggest challenges to date on the offensive side of the ball have been keeping Rivers upright (sacked four times against Cincinnati) and holding onto the ball. Several turnovers last Sunday, including a muffed punt by Keenan Allen deep in Chargers territory, set the stage for Cincinnati’s victory.

With San Diego’s running game yet to fully get in motion, Rivers has had to move the ball downfield via the air for the better part of two games. Rookie running back Melvin Gordon (taken by San Diego 15th overall in the NFL Draft) has rushed for 139 yards on 30 carries in two games. Meantime, Rivers has attempted 68 passes in two games, totaling 644 yards to date.

On the defensive side of the pigskin, San Diego’s top tackler is no surprise at all after a pair of games.

Free safety Eric Weddle has accumulated 19 total tackles (16 solo), while Manti Te’o is second with 15 total stops.

Avoiding Key Injuries

As the season gets a little longer, one of the main focuses for any team is the mounting injuries. After two games, the Chargers have not been immune to the injury bug, though most of the key cogs on both sides of the ball remain ready to go.

One key focus is on the offensive line, where starting offensive guard D.J. Fluker is looking to get back on the field permanently after being carted off two weeks ago with an ankle injury in the season-opening win over Detroit.

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According to the Chargers, Fluker was back practicing with the team this week, albeit a limited workout.

In the loss last weekend to Cincinnati, Fluker’s absence was notable as Rivers was not only sacked four times, but the running game also never fully got on track. Chris Hairston, who replaced Fluker in the contest with the Bengals, had more than his share of problems maintaining solid pass and run protection for the offense.

Elsewhere, punt and kick returner/wide receiver Jacoby Jones (ankle) and tight end Ladarius Green (concussion) are also question marks heading into this Sunday’s contest. 

Green, who could be the heir apparent when future Hall-of-Famer Antonio Gates leaves, is dealing with his second concussion of the season and remains questionable for the game.

The absence of Jones returning punts and kicks was noticeable last Sunday when Allen fumbled a punt, leading to Cincinnati’s first score.

Probable:

Klye Emanuel, outside linebacker (shoulder)
Chris Hairston, offensive guard (knee)
Jason Verrett, corner (foot)

Questionable:

Jahleel Addae strong safety (ankle)
D.J. Fluker, offensive guard (ankle)
Ladarius Green, tight end (concussion)
Jacoby Jones, wide receiver (ankle)
Chris Watt, center (groin)

Out:

Johnnie Troutman, guard (arm)
Tourek Williams, outside linebacker (foot)

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Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.