After a close and frustrating loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend, the Oakland Raiders had no time to wallow as the next test awaiting them is a tough one. The Raiders will host the 6-2 Minnesota Vikings and their star running back Adrian Peterson.
Sitting at 4-4, playoff hopes are still alive for the Raiders but they will need to win games like this if they want to make it happen this year. This is by no means an easy game, but these are the kinds of games playoff teams win. The Vikings have a better record but have faced an easier schedule and will be traveling to Oakland for the game. It’s a game the Raiders can win — here are some of the keys to getting that done.
Controlling Adrian Peterson
One week removed from allowing Antonio Brown go off for 306 all-purpose yards, one would hope the Raiders have learned from their mistakes and will do a better job stopping the Vikings’ most dynamic offensive player. Peterson is still dominant, but he is by no means unstoppable. He has been held to under 100 yards in half of his games this season, including both Vikings losses.
Before the Steelers game, the Raiders run defense looked impenetrable. They had just come off of a game in which they held Chris Ivory to 17 yards on 11 carries — a rather incredible stat considering the Jets had boasted a top-10 rushing attack heading into that matchup. After allowing DeAngelo Williams to gash the defense for over 200 all-purpose yards, the Raiders will be looking for redemption against one of the league’s best backs. If they can control him, their chances of winning will rise dramatically.
Winning the turnover battle
The Raiders turned the ball over four times last week, twice during crucial moments. With 13 turnovers on the year, the Raiders are tied for 15th-most in the league. That’s not terrible, but it’s also a number that they need to improve, especially when one considers that a significant number of those turnovers have come in the fourth quarter.
On the bright side of things, the Raiders have 14 takeaways — good enough to tie them for 10th in the league. Charles Woodson is still tied for the league lead in interceptions with five, despite the fact that he is basically playing with only one arm. The Raiders will get safety Nate Allen back this week, which should enable Woodson to play fewer snaps. Allen was one of the bigger free agent signings of the offseason and was targeted in large part due to his ability to create turnovers.
The Raiders desperately need to clean up their ball protection, or wins by close scores may continue to elude them.
Proving they have the better quarterback
The two starting quarterbacks in this Sunday’s game were not only taken in the same draft class, they were drafted a mere four picks apart from each other. Teddy Bridgewater was taken with the final pick in the first round while Derek Carr was taken with the fourth pick in the second round. Bridgewater looked like the better player in 2014, but he also played on the better team. It appears the reverse may be true in year two.
Carr has thrown for 2,094 yards with 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions this year, showing he’s taken a huge step forward in his development. Meanwhile, Bridgewater has taken a step back — 1,670 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions. If the Raiders can successfully keep Peterson in check and maintain possession, this game will likely come down to which second-year quarterback plays better.