The Vikings' front four needs to get to quarterback Carson Palmer before he gets to the Vikings' back seven, which includes a badly depleted secondary. Palmer averages 9.83 yards per pass attempt, while five of the team's top receiving targets average at least 15 yards per catch. That includes the top two receivers, Darrius Heyward-Bey (16.1) and Denarius Moore (17.2).
The Vikings' defense ranks seventh in sacks per pass play and is playing at home, where its pass rush is always more effective. The Raiders rank second in sacks allowed per pass play. Yet they still have thrown 14 interceptions, more than all but two teams in the league. Palmer has thrown more picks (7) than touchdown passes (6).
If the Vikings can neutralize the damage to their secondary, they can control the game with Adrian Peterson, making things much easier on rookie quarterback Christian Ponder.
The Raiders will look to keep Minnesota's two impact players relatively under control. If successful, Oakland can be almost assured of victory. Defensively, any success the Raiders have will be rooted in keeping RB Adrian Peterson in check and forcing rookie QB Christian Ponder to the air. The goal would be to keep the Vikings in poor down-and-distance then dare Minnesota to do anything other than roll Ponder out to the perimeter.
Offensively, the Raiders will look to run Michael Bush enough to keep the Vikings honest but their real success on a fast indoor track will come with Carson Palmer and a developing passing game against a leaky secondary. The key there is getting plenty of help with Jared Allen to prevent multiple sacks and turnovers.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Vikings OLB Chad Greenway, who leads the team in tackles (87) and is the best linebacker in coverage against running backs, vs. Raiders RB Michael Bush, who had 242 yards from scrimmage (157 rushing, 85 receiving) on 33 touches in the Raiders' 24-17 win over the Chargers. Bush and the Raiders played the Nov. 10 Thursday night game so they've had extra time to rest and prepare, while the Vikings are working on a short week after a road Monday night game. Bush is 6-1, 247 pounds and not easy to bring down. Greenway has had a solid, but unspectacular year since signing his long-term contract before the season.
Vikings CB Cedric Griffin, who has given up numerous big plays throughout the season, vs. Raiders QB Carson Palmer, who has more interceptions (7) than touchdown passes (5), but has given Oakland a downfield passing threat with a 9.83-yard average per attempt. Griffin's lowlight reel for the 2011 season continued Monday night when receiver Jordy Nelson stiff-armed Griffin to the ground at the Vikings' 13-yard line on a 17-yard touchdown reception. Raiders receivers Denarius Moore is averaging 17.2 yards with four touchdowns. Darrius Heyward-Bey is averaging 16.1 yards per catch with a touchdown. If the Vikings' pass rush doesn't come through, look for Griffin to have a big target on him.
Raiders LT Jared Veldheer vs. Vikings RDE Jared Allen. Veldheer had some trouble earlier this season with Tamba Hali but has generally fared well against pass rushers and kept Jason Campbell and now Palmer clean. He is 6-foot-9 and agile enough to keep himself between Allen and Palmer but will likely get help from TEs Kevin Boss and/or Brandon Myers and chip blocks from FB Marcel Reece. Another way to slow Allen is to run at him. Allen is a decent run defender but tends to play better in pursuit against the run than in shedding blocks and making plays at the point of attack.
Raiders DTs Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour vs. Minnesota Gs Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera and C John Sullivan. Keeping Peterson under control is a tall order for the Raiders, and can only be achieved with Kelly, Seymour and also John Henderson rotating in and pushing back the Minnesota middle. Once Peterson gets downhill and past the defensive line, the Raiders linebackers and secondary will be hard-pressed to keep the Vikings from an endless procession of first downs and the specter of him breaking one for the distance.
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