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Where We Officially Start Trying To Play Spoiler



Date: 20 November 2011
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Time: 12:00 PM Central
Stadium: HHH Metrodome
DirecTV Ch. 704
Know Thy Enemy: Silver and Black Pride
Gonzo's Prediction: Vikings 24, Raiders 21
Final Score: Raiders 27, Vikings 21

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, another Sunday of football is upon us. At this point, while knowing that the Vikings probably don't have a heck of a lot more wins coming this season, we can hope every week that they can screw things up for the teams that do, starting this week against a very worthy opponent in the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are part of an AFC West race that, by the end of the day on Monday, could see all four teams with 5-5 records. The Vikings, on the other hand, are in the best division in the NFL and are already looking at playing for draft position, looking at having to blow up basically their entire operation and start over from scratch.

So, what do the Vikings have to do to pull off what would be a considerable upset in this one?

1) Peterson, Peterson, Peterson - Yes, Adrian Peterson is really good. We know that. Everybody knows that. Knowing that and doing something about it, however, are two different animals. The Raiders are 25th in the National Football League against the run this year, allowing 132.4 yards/game and an average of 5.2 yards/carry. That latter ties them for worst in the NFL in that department. With the Vikings' defense in the state it's currently in, their best bet is to shorten the game with Peterson. This will be the first time that Adrian Peterson has ever faced the Raiders. . .the last time these teams played in 2007, he was nursing a knee injury. . .so we'll see what he's got for the Silver and Black.

2) Keep taking care of the football - You know which team has committed the fewest turnovers in the National Football League thus far in 2011? Why, the answer is none other than your Minnesota Vikings, who have just eight turnovers this season through their first nine games (five interceptions thrown, three fumbles lost), and have an overall takeaway/giveaway ratio of +4 on the season. In fact, there are fourteen teams in the NFL this year with positive take/give ratios. . .13 of them have winning records. Minnesota does not. In any case, the Raiders are currently at -5 in the take/give figures, having given the ball away eighteen times this season, with fourteen of those coming via the interception. If the Vikings can take care of the football while forcing a turnover or two in this one, it will go a long ways towards an upset victory.

3) Stay focused - Yes, the Vikings took a butt-whipping last week, and they've had a short week to get back on the horse and try to prepare for the Raiders. Oakland, on the other hand, hasn't played since November 10, when they beat the Chargers on Thursday night football. These are the sorts of times that your veteran leadership. . .guys like Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson, and so forth. . .needs to step up and tell everyone else to keep their heads up and to fight until the final whistle. The Vikings might not win a lot going forward in 2011, but they can sure as heck be competitive and not mail it in like we've seen teams do in the past.

For this one, we obviously get the pleasure of keeping an eye on Peterson and Allen as they pursue personal marks. Allen is still on pace to set the single-season sack record, and he's going to have his work cut out for him against a Raider offensive line that has only allowed 11 sacks so far this season. Peterson, on the other hand, is still chasing the Vikings' career rushing record. He is currently 190 yards behind Robert Smith, which means that he's going to get that record this year (barring injury), it's just a matter of when. While I wouldn't expect him to get it today, by any stretch, he could take a step towards it against what has been a soft Raider run defense. The funny thing about Peterson getting the record is that it took Smith eight seasons and 98 career games to amass those stats. Peterson is going to break his record before he concludes his fifth full season in the league.

We've heard all the "Suck for Luck" or "Fall Flat for Matt (Kalil)" stuff over the past few weeks. While high draft picks are nice and everything, screw that. I'm hoping for as many wins as possible from here on out. The draft picks will sort themselves out later on.