The Oakland Raiders control their own destiny going forward. If this team is going to make the playoffs then it will be because they win the AFC West. There is no other route to the postseason.
It is all too easy to overlook the Minnesota Vikings. From their 2-7 record to the embarrassment on Monday Night, the Vikings might appear to be easy prey.
But this is the NFL which stands for Not For Long when you make those types of assumptions.
On paper the Raiders should have the advantage. Carson Palmer has elevated the passing game to a new level in just a short period of time. Throwing at Minnesota’s banged up secondary should be a priority. Gaining balance with Michael Bush will also prove crucial. Another performance like the one in San Diego a week ago will go a long way in Oakland’s efforts to increase their divisional lead.
On the other side of the ball, the Silver and Black defense has a very unique conundrum to deal with.
With rookie Christian Ponder still learning the league it would seem all too simple to pressure him into careless mistakes. Oakland’s front seven need only make Ponder uncomfortable to gain the advantage.
But the real key to this contest relates to how the Raiders handle Adrian Peterson. As of late the Raider run defense has looked its best in years. Still, the task of controlling Peterson is problematic.
Peterson is a bruising back with break away speed. He is the type that will gain little more than three yards a carry for three quarters and then will kill you with a devastating long run late.
If Sunday’s game is close late then the Raiders will be in a precarious position.
More often than not the Raiders have played well against the run the last couple of years. Then a couple of missed assignments occur and all of a sudden the big play monster shows its face. This is precisely why Adrian Peterson is such a tough assignment. He’ll lull you to sleep and then will drop an anvil on your dome just as you doze off.
For the Raiders they have but one simple key to success. They must stop Peterson.
If the Raiders were able to contain crybaby Philip Rivers and the San Diego passing game then there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to do the same against Ponder and the Vikings. However if Peterson is running wild then all bets are off.
Keeping Peterson in check is a total team effort. It starts up front with the D-line that must make plays in the backfield or at least divert Peterson from his desired route. From there the linebackers must maintain their assignments and finish off tackles when they get #28 in their sights. After that the secondary will be critical in making sure those 5-10 yard gains don’t turn into 20-60 yard house calls.
To be sure the offense plays a big role as well. The longer Palmer and the Raiders hold the rock the less opportunities Peterson has to do damage.
Basically the Raiders must repeat their performance in San Diego not just this week but every week from here out. It takes a total team effort to get back into the postseason. The Raiders have shown they can do it now they just need to prove they can do so consistently.