Oakland Raiders Keys to Success: Minnesota Vikings

Andrew Flores – Nov 11, 2015

Coming off of a last minute loss in what many saw as a game the Raiders needed to win, this week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings will test the team’s mental toughness. The question posed is will head coach Jack Del Rio be able to rally the Raiders after a bitter loss? While there were many positives within the game last week. It will be interesting to see how these Raiders react to the loss, as the Raiders were full of confidence coming off of a statement win against the Jets, before being stunned by the Steelers.   The Vikings could very well be without quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as he is currently going through the concussion protocol. Nonetheless this is a talented team and the Raiders cannot underestimate their opponents.  The Vikings currently sit at 6-2, and are looking like a playoff caliber team. The Vikings are a relatively young team full of talent. The Vikings are hoping that Bridgewater will be ready to roll this Sunday, but if he is unable to clear the concussion protocol the Vikings will be left with veteran quarterback Shaun Hill. Hill has plenty of experience with 14 years in the league. If Hill starts on Sunday expect the Vikings to lean heavily on Adrian Peterson as the Vikings will try not to put the game on Hill’s shoulders. 

The offensive players to watch for the Vikings are running back Adrian Peterson, tight-end Kyle Rudolph, and receiver Stefon Diggs. The Vikings will look to let Peterson run wild again after amassing 125 yards and a touchdown last week. At age 30 Peterson remains a dominant force as he is currently the NFL’s leading rusher with 758 yards. Peterson’s performance could easily be the deciding factor in the contest.  Peterson is a powerful runner and this will be a huge test for a Raiders run defense that fell flat as running back DeAngelo Williams dominated them rushing for 170 yards last week.   Kyle Rudolph is a talented tight end and at 6'6 he is an excellent end zone target. Rudolph currently leads the Vikings with 3 touchdown catches. He is an excellent receiver and has excellent speed for his size.  This could be a matchup that the Vikings try to take advantage of as the Raiders have struggled to cover tight ends. The key factor for the Raiders here will be the return of safeties TJ Carrie and Nate Allen. Hopefully with the return of Allen the Raiders can explore other options and find a way to cover the opposing team’s tight-ends.   The Raiders cannot continue to use inside linebacker Curtis Lofton as he has clearly been a liability in coverage.   

Stefon Diggs is sensational the rookie wide receiver has established himself as the go to guy for this Vikings offense. The fifth round draft pick is looking like quite the steal as he currently leads the Vikings with 28 receptions and 461 receiving yards. Diggs is an explosive athlete and is great at making defenders miss, he is currently averaging 16.5 yards per reception. Diggs is an excellent route runner and the Vikings have relied on him heavily this season. Expect Diggs to be a key contributor on Sunday. I think the Raiders will continue the trend of having DJ Hayden cover the team’s number one receiver and expect to see Hayden lined up against Diggs.

Defensively the Vikings have a great nucleus of young talent. The Vikings defense has been invested in heavily and it is full of talent. Safety is a strength as Harrison Smith is one of the best in the league. The Vikings also boast a talented trio of cornerbacks in Captain Munnerlyn, Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. All three of the Vikings corners are excellent in press coverage.  It will be interesting to see how the Vikings try and shut down the Raider’s rookie sensation Amari Cooper. Amari Cooper has struggled at times when the opposing team engages in press coverage, but because Cooper is so talented and has so many tools he has displayed a rare resilience. Even when challenged by the best corners Cooper has risen to the challenge.

The Vikings linebacker position is also a strength. To be frank the Viking’s linebackers are exceptional as Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are establishing themselves as true stars. Because the Vikings boast such a talented defense, it will be interesting to watch how they match up with the Raider's explosive offense.

Offensively the Raiders biggest story this week will be the health of running back Latavius Murray. Murray sustained a concussion last week when Steeler’s safety Mike Mitchell leveled him with a vicious helmet to helmet hit. As this is Murray’s second concussion in the NFL the Raiders will need to exercise the highest caution when it comes to their running back’s health. There is no questioning Murray’s value to this team and this offense as Murray is currently the AFC’s leading rusher with 630 yards.  If Murray is unable to play this Sunday it could be a huge blow for the Raiders. While the Raiders do boast one of the league’s top offenses and have been brutally efficient as the talented trio of Carr, Cooper and Murray have dismantled opposing defenses, the offense has struggled mightily when Murray is not on the field. If Murray is not on the field for the Raider’s the Vikings could key in on shutting down Carr as the threat of the run will likely be nonexistent.

Defensively the Raiders will welcome the return of safeties TJ Carrie and Nate Allen, as they will reinforce a secondary that was shredded this weekend by the Steelers.   If Hill is the starter for the Vikings the Raider’s defense needs to force Hill to beat them. While this may not be a welcome thought after watching Brown batter the Raider’s secondary, I would remind fans that the Raiders run defense surrendered 170 yards. Adrian Peterson will wreck the Raiders if the defense does not make shutting down Peterson the priority on Sunday. The Raiders will also need to key in on Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs to pull a win. Luckily for the Raiders defense this will be a home game and if Hill is the starter, the ever rough and raucous Raider Nation could make things difficult for Hill all game long. Yes I am saying that you the fans can have an impact on the game come Sunday and I truly believe that Raider Nation will show up proud and show up loud. Pressure will be key in this game, but it would be nice to see the Raiders line Khalil Mack up at linebacker and let him key in on shutting down Peterson, while I have no doubt that this will make things easier for Quarterback Shaun Hill. On the defensive line Mario Edwards has been excellent at disrupting the pocket and creating interior pressure and Aldon Smith, and Benson Mayowa could more than hold their own if the Raiders were to try and implement this to stop Peterson.

The health of both teams could be a key factor this Sunday as both teams are awaiting the outcomes of the concussion protocol for their stars. This game will be a test of the Raider’s mental toughness coming off of a bitter loss. The Raider’s ability to stop Peterson could easily decide this game. As a final note while it was not mentioned earlier Carr is having a phenomenal season and proving himself as a true gunslinger of a franchise quarterback.  If Murray cannot play it will be interesting to see how Carr fares without the run game.

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