By Shaun Brett – Oakland Raiders Writer
The Oakland Raiders are rolling into Minneapolis in week 3 to face the NFC North’s Minnesota Vikings. This will be the first time the Raiders have hit the road this season following a two-game homestand in which, the Raiders finished 1-1.
Both the Raiders and Vikings will be hoping to get back to winning ways as both teams lost key divisional matchups in week 2. For the Raiders it was a 28-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, where Quarterback Patrick Mahomes showed the rest of the league why he is the reigning league MVP. The Vikings went on the road to face NFC North rival’s the Green Bay Packers which they also suffered a loss going down 21-16.
Due to Coach Andy Reid’s great scheming and adjustments, the Raiders secondary had no answers for Mahomes deep bombs as he exposed them at will after a quiet first quarter. If the Raiders are to come away with anything from Minnesota they have to eliminate these explosive type of plays. After week 2 the Raiders pass defense is ranked dead last which was the exact same problem last season.
Defensive coordinator Paul Gunther has however helped fix the leaky run defense from last season as they are currently ranked 5th in run defense.
This week will be a true test of how far the defense has come from last season, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook currently leads the league in rushing with 265 yards to his name. Raiders defense forced the Chiefs offense into so many 3rd and long situations, but unfortunately, they couldn’t keep quarterback Mahomes off the field.
This week Raiders face Kirk Cousins so the defense should be able to force more punts from the Vikings.
In order for the Raiders to beat the Vikings, things need to change on offense, rookie RB Josh Jacobs only had 12 touches that went for 99 yards with an average of 8.3 yards per carrying in Week 2. Coach Jon Gruden has to give more touches to Jacobs, as Vikings run defense is ranked 15th against the run middle of the pack. The pass rush has to get pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins, Green Bays defense forced two interceptions and two fumbles which one was recovered.
The Raiders can not let the Vikings establish the run game as this will open the play-action passing game which will make Cousins look like an elite player of his position.
There is one early concern though, the game is a 1 pm ET kick-off, and the Raiders are flying cross country from the West coast which instantly puts them at a disadvantage. Team’s from west coast historically struggle on the road in the early window games.
For the Raiders to stand any chance of winning here there are a few things that they must do:
– Establish the run game early! Jacobs had just 12 touches last week, his vision and explosiveness are that of a veteran so utilizing him will be key.
– Coach Gruden needs to be more balanced on offense after a very pass-heavy in week 2 against Kansas City.
– They need another wide receiver to break out Tyrell Williams, as he can’t do it on his own.
– On defense, they have to keep Vikings’ Cook in check, if not this could be another long day for the defense.
– The Secondary has to limit the explosive plays this week as they face a Kirk Cousins who is nowhere near the level of Patrick Mahomes.
The Raiders are competitive during this game but ultimately fall just short of a come back losing 23-20.