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Vikings must beware the Rivers rollercoaster

EAGAN — It’s been a bizarre season for one of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks.

Los Angeles Chargers legend Philip Rivers, who ranks sixth all-time in passing yards, has eight losses this season and all eight are by one score. His offense has overall impressive numbers, ranking fourth in yards per play, fifth in net yards per pass attempt and fifth in scoring percentage, yet the Chargers have come up short on too many occasions to be in contention for a playoff spot.

Part of the reason is Rivers’ wild ups and downs.

The 38-year-old quarterback averages 8.0 yards per attempt and has seven 300-plus yard passing games but he has also thrown 15 interceptions — three more than all of 2018 — and has seven fumbles compared to just two last year.

From game to game the Chargers can’t be clear on which version of Rivers is going to show up: The one that is bound for the Hall of Fame or the fading star version.

Here’s a look at his game-by-game performances by PFF grade and ESPN’s QBR:

In past years the Minnesota Vikings might head into a game against a once-great quarterback with the expectation to send Rivers’ PFF grade plummeting from his outstanding game against Jacksonville but the Vikings’ defense has been leaky at times this season. However, opposing QBs have not put up huge PFF grades against the Vikings this season. Here’s all the performances against Mike Zimmer’s defense:

QB PFF grade
Matt Ryan 64.1
Aaron Rodgers 81.0
Derek Carr 65.8
Chase Daniel 83.5
Daniel Jones 64.8
Carson Wentz 78.9
Matthew Stafford 72.5
Case Keenum 57.2
Matt Moore 58.2
Dak Prescott 74.3
Brandon Allen 67.3
Russell Wilson 65.6
David Blough 60.4

Still Zimmer is well aware that the old Rivers could suddenly pop up and have a great game.

“He’s very, very smart,” Zimmer said. “He’s always been very smart. He’s always been a great competitor. You think that at some point the arm strength will go down a little bit, but he had a couple bombs in that game.”

One area where Rivers should concern the Vikings is his willingness to throw into coverage. Per NFL NextGen stats, he’s passed into tight windows on 16.3% of passes, which ranks just behind Tampa Bay’s volatile QB Jameis Winston.

“He’s going to throw the ball into tight spaces,” Zimmer said. “He’s going to give the receivers a chance. Really in that game, there’s a couple guys coming over the middle open and he took the shot down the middle. If he sees one guy running with one guy, he’s going to give them the opportunity to go get it and they made a couple tremendous plays there.”

Rivers has talented receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, who averages 21.0 yards per reception. They will be going up against a Vikings pass defense that has given up 43 passes of 20 or more yards (14th most), which is the same number they allowed all of last season.

When the long-time Charger is at his best, he is also an elite trash talker, according to Zimmer.

“He’s not afraid to voice his opinion about, ‘You call that a blitz,’ or something like that,” the Vikings’ head coach said. 


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