The running game is expected to be the fuel that drives both offenses in Sunday's game between the Vikings and Raiders. We chronicle that, along with several key matchups to watch.
This should be an interesting matchup between two bad teams with excellent running attacks.
The Vikings will be without Adrian Peterson
(knee), their rookie superstar, but nonetheless have Chester Taylor
to take the bulk of the workload when it comes to rushing.
Oakland's run defense is ranked near the bottom of the NFL and its passing defense is in the top five, meaning Minnesota is likely to keep it on the turf as much as possible.
This will be especially true with the inconsistent Jackson expected to start at quarterback.
While the Vikings' running game is No. 1 in the league, the Raiders are fifth. It will be interesting to see how Oakland attacks the Vikings because Minnesota has one of the NFL's best run defenses.
and Justin Fargas
figure to both touch the ball on a consistent basis (Fargas has been doing it more lately) but relying on the run against the Vikings could be very dangerous. San Diego and Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson
found out just how difficult that can be in a 35-17 loss in Week 9.
What's interesting, though, is Oakland's passing attack is almost as bad as the Vikings' pass defense. This might be a good time for the Raiders to see if they can start moving the ball through the air with any consistency.
Defensively, the Raiders will be out to duplicate their performance against the run the previous week. Their job was made somewhat easier with the absence of Peterson, but Oakland has been shredded by lesser backs than Taylor. In any event, forcing Jackson to the air, and capitalizing with turnovers, would seem to be the lone chance at victory. The Raiders will do their best to attack with safe passes and stubborn runs, but they aren't likely to get much done without considerable help from defense and special teams with regard to scoring.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH Vikings RB Chester Taylor vs. Raiders run defense. Taylor will return to his starting role with Peterson out because of an injury and the Vikings veteran could be in position for a big game. The Raiders run defense is among the worst in the NFL and the Vikings run game, thanks in large part to Peterson's exploits, is ranked No. 1 overall in the league. Remember that Taylor did rush for 1,216 yards last season, so he's very capable of putting together a big day against a Raiders front that features tackles Warren Sapp and Gerard Warren.
Vikings DT Pat Williams vs. Raiders C Jeremy Newberry. Williams is coming off a frustrating game in which the Packers ran away from the middle of the Vikings line as much as possible and thus became the first team this season to have an individual (Ryan Grant, 119 yards) rush for 100 yards or more against Minnesota. The Vikings are still third in the NFL in run defense and the Raiders have the fifth-ranked rushing attack. Williams is going to want to help make up for the Green Bay loss and thus should enter into a pretty good battle with Newberry. Newberry is coming off one of his more difficult outings of the season, when he committed a holding penalty and an illegal downfield block against the Bears. He has held up remarkably well physically, but in recent weeks has been showing the strain of his first extended action in nearly two years. The Raiders have gotten little done on the ground in recent weeks other than a 101-yard effort by Fargas against Houston.
Vikings CB Cedric Griffin vs. Raiders WR Ronald Curry. Griffin had a rough game last Sunday at Lambeau Field, failing to hang onto one interception in the end zone just before a Packers scoring pass and having safety Darren Sharper run into him on another occasion, creating a tipped ball and an easy touchdown for Green Bay. Griffin also gave up a 37-yard completion in the fourth quarter. The Raiders no doubt will hope to capitalize on Griffin's struggles by getting Curry matched up on him. Curry leads Oakland with 34 catches for 418 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Vikings RT Ryan Cook vs. Raiders LDE Derrick Burgess — Cook, in his second season, is one of six Minnesota players drafted in 2006 who have ascended to a starting role. In Burgess, he is playing a tenacious speed rusher who gets his sacks in bunches and has had some of his best games against young, inexperienced players. Burgess may just be beginning to get on a roll. He got a late start to camp after hernia surgery and missed two games with a calf injury. An adequate run defender despite his relatively slight 260-pound build, Burgess has struggled in that area this year. But he has begun to come around, with two sacks in the last three games. The more Cook can run-block Burgess, the better off he will be.