Something Has To Give

Chester Taylor may be the biggest key of the game today as the Vikings meet the Raiders. Of their first nine opponents, six running backs have topped 100 yards and, even without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings look to become the seventh.

Typically when two teams have a contrast in styles, something has to give. The Vikings and Raiders are such a contrast. While they have some striking similarities, it is their differences that make today's game what has all the makings of a battle of wills.

The biggest similarity between the teams is their records – the Vikings are 3-6 and the Raiders are 2-7. Neither looks to have a shot at the playoffs, so both are looking at the second half of the season as a way to springboard themselves to rebuilding for the future.

Why are both teams struggling? Because neither has been able to effectively pass the ball. Entering today's game, the Vikings are 31st in passing in the league, while the Raiders are 30th. While both teams have been able to run the ball effectively – the Vikings have the top-ranked rushing offense in the league and the Raiders are ranked No. 5 – it is how the teams have played defensively that is going to be the biggest difference in their battle today.

The Vikings have been able to effectively shut down the run – ranking third in the NFL. But, the Vikings are dead last in the league is pass defense. Teams have successfully picked apart the Vikings with short passes that many teams have opted to go with because of the Vikings' ability to shut down running lanes and make opposing offenses one-dimensional. The Raiders have been just the opposite.

Oakland is fourth in the league against the pass. The only teams it trails are the Steelers, Colts and Buccaneers – all teams that enter play today in first place in their respective divisions. So why not the Raiders? Because they are 29th in the league against the run. Teams have been able to control the clock and wear down the Raiders defense consistently all season long.

Even without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings running game should have the chance to pile up yardage as Chester Taylor resumes his role as the team's featured back. Something has to give today. Either the Raiders step up their run defense or, like so many teams that have preceded them, the Vikings run over, around and through the Raiders.

* The Raiders have the worst interception percentage of any team in the league this year and are 30th in sack percentage per pass.
* The Raiders are third in the league in interception percentage by their defense and fourth in first downs allowed per game.
* On the flip side, the Vikings are 28th in the league in both interception percentage and first downs allowed.
* The Vikings are tied for ninth in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-5 with 18 takeaways and 13 giveaways. The Raiders are tied for last with the Rams at minus-11 with 11 takeaways and 22 giveaways.
* The Raiders have yet to recover a fumble this season – all 11 of their takeaways have been interceptions.
* The Vikings are the only team in the NFL to have more offensive yards rushing (1,551) than passing (1,373).
* The Vikings are the only team to allow 2,500 or more yards passing (2,573) and only three teams are within 300 yards of that total.
* The Vikings remain last in trips to the red zone with 13, while the Raiders are third-worst with 18 trips to the red zone. To put that in perspective, nine teams have had as many red zone opportunities as the Vikings and Raiders combined.
* The Vikings have 154 first downs on offense through nine games and are the only team in the league with more first downs via rushing (71) than passing (67).
* Defensively, the Vikings have allowed just 38 first downs via the run (best in the NFL), but have allowed 136 first downs via the pass – second-worst in the league.
* The Vikings' third-down conversion rate of 30.5 percent is better than only the 49ers (27.6 percent).
* The Vikings defense has been in 134 third-down situations – most of any team in the NFL.
* The Raiders have struggled on first down all season. The team ranks 29th in first-down offense, averaging 4.42 yards per play and 30th on defense, averaging 5.94 yards allowed. The Vikings are ranked seventh in both categories.
* The Vikings have allowed four opposing quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards, while having none themselves. The Raiders have allowed no passer to top 300 yards this year and had one 300-yard passing game earlier this season.
* The Vikings also have failed to have a 100-yard receiver this year, while the Raiders have accomplished the feat just once.
* Four of the top eight individual rushing days have come from either the Vikings or the Raiders. Peterson has the top two days with 296 and 224 yards, but Justin Fargas has added a 179-yard day and Lamont Jordan has chipped in a 159-yard effort.
* The Raiders have allowed six opposing players to run for 100 or more yards, while the Vikings have allowed just one – Ryan Grant last week vs. the Packers.
* On the NFL's official league statistics, neither the Vikings nor the Raiders have a quarterback that shows up on the list of leading passers.
* Despite being sidelined, Peterson remains the only NFL runner with 1,000 yards. His nearest competition is Willie Parker of the Steelers, who is 208 yards behind. How dominant has A.P.'s season been? Clinton Portis is third on the list and he is 315 yards behind A.P.'s total.
* In the NFL, there are 81 players that have caught more than 25 passes. The Vikings and Raiders combined to have just two of them – Ronald Curry with 34 and Bobby Wade with 26.
* Wade's 313 yards receiving tops the Vikings, but is tied for 71st place with Justin Gage of the Titans. Last year, Wade was with the Titans after being let go by the Bears – an eerily similar career path that brought Gage to the Titans.
* Peterson is tied for the league lead in most points scored by a running back this season with 54.
* Peterson's 54 points leads the Vikings, since kicker Ryan Longwell has 52 points. Both he and Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski have scored 52 points each – tying them for 26th place among kickers for scoring.
* Raiders punter Shane Lechler leads the AFC with a 49.9 yard average.

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