For the second straight week, the Vikings will take on a division-leading opponent. This one isn't undefeated, but the Raiders still pose a lot of challenges for Minnesota. Since our AFC opponent isn't as familiar of a foe as the team we played two of the last three games, we thought it would be a good idea to break out our "Five Good Questions" segment with the folks from Silver And Black Pride.
Adam Conley, aka LiveAdam, was kind enough to respond to some questions we had about the Raiders. Without further ado, here they are:
Daily Norseman: What's the latest you're hearing about Darren McFadden's status on Sunday? Michael Bush has filled in admirably in his absence the last two weeks, but how important is Run DMC's presence return to the Raiders' chances going forward?
Silver And Black Pride: Head Coach Hue Jackson is very picky about players practicing before playing. Darren McFadden has been a spectator at practice all week, and only recently got out of his walking boot. With that in mind, there's little to no chance McFadden plays on Sunday. As for his importance to this offense, it is immeasurable. As a run-first offense the Raiders win and lose depending on how well they run the ball, and McFadden is one of the best in the league. In addition to running the ball, McFadden does an excellent job with screens and check-downs, as well as his pass blocking in 3rd down situations. He truly is a complete, elite back. Thankfully, as you mentioned, Michael Bush possesses many of the same qualities and is an amazing backup running back. Many Oakland Raiders fans, me included, wish Bush would have a bigger week-to-week role in the Raiders' offense, rather than simply backing up McFadden.
DN: I know it's early, but how do you feel about the Carson Palmer trade so far? How far does he have to take this team to make the steep price worth it? What do you think Jason Campbell's future with the team is after the trade?
SABP: The general consensus among Raiders fans is that Hue Jackson had coveted Carson Palmer all along, and that the confluence of events between Jason Campbell's injury and Mr. Davis' death provided an opportunity for Jackson to go out and get his guy.
From Day 1 I was pretty excited about the trade, but my biggest fear was that Palmer's right elbow still wouldn't be healthy enough to be an elite downfield passer. Those fears were put to rest last Thursday against the Chargers. In just 3 games Palmer has shown a strong understanding of the Raiders' offense, an ability to run a no-huddle offense that Jason Campbell was unable to master in over a year and a half, and is a much more vocal leader than Campbell ever was.
So was it worth it? Time will tell, but my hope is that Palmer will lead this talented Oakland team to 2 or 3 AFC West division titles and some playoff wins. If this team plays at its highest potential it can be an elite team in the AFC, and hopefully Palmer will be a big part of that for the next 3 years.
As for Campbell, I see him in a different uniform next season. He'll get a chance to win a starting job; it just won't be in Oakland.
DN: The Raiders are one of the surprises of the NFL season, in first place by themselves in the AFC West heading into Week 11. Where does this team need to improve the most in order to make the playoffs?
SABP: Discipline is the biggest area that needs improvement with the Oakland Raiders. This lack of discipline affects the team in two major areas - penalties and run defense.
Penalties - The Raiders are far and away the most penalized team in the NFL. Those penalties either kill drives on offense or keep them alive on defense, change the momentum of games, and shows a mental vulnerability that other teams may exploit. For all of his leadership skills, Richard Seymour is the biggest culprit of this vulnerability - get under his skin and he's bound to do something stupid and take a personal foul.
Run Defense - In five wins the Raiders defense has allowed an average of 69.6 yards rushing (3.5 YPC) and allowed only one touchdown. In its four losses, Oakland's defense has allowed an average of 209.3 yards rushing (6.3 YPC) and eight touchdowns. The problem is a lack of discipline, put on full display with an embarrassing performance against Tim Tebow. When the Raiders decide to be disciplined in their run defense they usually win. When they don't, it gets ugly quick.
DN: Oakland lost Nnamdi Asomugha to Philadelphia in free agency, which was supposed to ruin the Raiders defense and transform the Eagles into the "Dream Team". Yet here we are with Oakland at 5-4 and Philly at 3-6. Do you feel bad for Asoumugha or are you secretly enjoying the turmoil a little? Be honest!
SABP: My enjoyment of the Eagles' turmoil has nothing to do with Nnamdi Asomugha. During his tenure with the Raiders Asomugha was a consummate professional, despite never being a part of a winning season and dealing with multiple head coaches, defensive coordinators, position coaches, and an eccentric owner. I guess I do feel a little bad for him, but that has more to do with the fact that the Raiders never offered him a contract to stay rather than his forced decision to move on.
DN: Give us one player on offense and one player on defense that most Vikings fans don't know about but you think will have a big impact on Sunday's game. Finally, tell us who you think will win and why.
SABP: Offense - Left Tackle Jared Veldheer. It's Jared v. Jared on the respective lines for the Raiders and Vikings on Sunday. The second-year tackle out of Hillsdale College in Michigan has played very well this season, and does well both in pass protection and run blocking. Veldheer did struggle against KC's Tamba Hali, however, and faces an extreme challenge dealing with the NFL's sack leader Jared Allen. If Veldheer can keep Allen off of Carson Palmer's back (or knees - I remember Allen going after Peyton Manning's knees), the Raiders have a much better chance of exploiting the Vikings 30th ranked pass defense.
Defense - Strong Safety Tyvon Branch. Because of the Raiders' defensive scheme, strong safety Tyvon Branch generally ends up with the most tackles for the game. This gives him the unenviable task of keeping Adrian Peterson at bay on Sunday. Branch will also cover the Vikings' TEs as Christian Ponder looks to check down from a strong Raiders pass rush. If Branch has a big game, it will be bad news for Vikings fans.
The Raiders have done surprisingly well on the road and have had a long week to get healthy and focused. The Vikings are a better team than their record suggests, but I think the Raiders offense can get a lead and force the Vikings into a catch-up situation it's not ready to overcome just yet. Raiders 27-17.
Thanks a ton to Adam for taking the time to share his information and insight--some really good stuff.