Vikings face Chargers Sunday, seeking win after trying week

Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings watches his team warm up before a preseason game against the Denver Broncos at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 14, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  ((Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings look to put a cap on one of the more difficult weeks of the 2021 season so far with a win at the L.A. Chargers on Sunday.

The Vikings are 3-5 on the season, and have lost two straight since their bye week and have had seven of their eight games come down to the final possession. They’ll be without five defensive starters Sunday against Justin Herbert and the Chargers between injuries and COVID-19. They also hope to get a big game from running back Dalvin Cook, whose November 2020 incident with an ex-girlfriend became public this week after she filed a lawsuit against him, alleging assault at his Inver Grove Heights home.

Cook said Wednesday "I’m the victim in this situation," and his representation insists he’s the victim of abuse and potential extortion. Because the lawsuit is a civil matter and there were no arrests made or charges filed in the case, it's not considered criminal and Cook isn't currently subject to discipline by the NFL or the Vikings.

If that’s not enough, offensive lineman Dakota Dozier was reportedly hospitalized Tuesday night due to COVID-19, and having difficulty breathing. Dozier is vaccinated, and Mike Zimmer said he was stable on Wednesday. Dozier was placed on the COVID-19 list a week ago Friday.

The situation prompted the Vikings to enter enhanced COVID-19 protocols, and as many as 29 team members, Zimmer included, got additional testing done as potential close contacts. The Vikings will be without safety Harrison Smith for the second straight game, after he tested positive before last Sunday’s loss at Baltimore. He’s in protocols put in place by the NFL for non-vaccinated players. The Vikings have had six players test positive in the last nine days.

The Vikings will also be without Michael Pierce, Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr and Patrick Peterson. Pierce has missed four straight games with an elbow injury, and will have to miss at least the next three after being placed on injured reserve on Saturday. The earliest Pierce can return is Week 13 at the Detroit Lions.

Hunter is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Barr didn’t practice all week due to the same knee injury that caused him to miss the first four games of the season. Peterson is still on IR with a hamstring injury suffered before the bye at the Carolina Panthers. He could return as early as next week.

Kellen Mond and Ihmir Smith-Marsette are the other inactive players for Sunday's game. Bashaud Breeland, who was questionable with a groin injury, will play Sunday.

The Chargers are atop the AFC West at 5-3 and coming off a 27-24 win at the Philadelphia Eagles. Life doesn't get any easier any time soon for the Vikings, who host NFC North-leading Green Bay next week.