Still had a glimmer of a glint of a shard of a shred of a dollop of hope going into Monday night? Well forget it now. Even if the Vikings got bitten by a radioactive spider turning them into superheroes capable of crushing every team they play for the rest of the season, they still probably wouldn’t make the playoffs. To get into the postseason they would literally have to break into Roger Goodell’s office and hold him hostage in exchange for a berth, but even then they would probably ultimately be foiled by the government’s secret anti-superhero robots, which of course Roger can call forth by sending out a telepathic distress signal.
Yes the Vikings have entered that most dismal of all modes, the one where they’re just playing for pride, and of course stats. The guy everyone will be watching is Jared Allen who has a legitimate shot at breaking Michael Strahan’s fraudulent sack record. The Raiders do a good job pass protecting but then again Carson Palmer isn’t exactly mobile so you have to figure Jared will have his shots. Speaking of pass rushing defensive ends…here’s hoping Brian Robison shows up this week. Robison started out the season like gangbusters but has disappeared recently except when he’s kicking guys in the groin or shoving refs.
The main issue for the Vikings probably won’t be the Raiders’ passing game anyway, it will be the running game. Darren McFadden is out but the Raiders also have Michael Bush who has been tearing it up, going for 99, 96 and 157 on the ground the last three games. The Vikings defensive line will be mainly responsible for bottling up Bush, and this week they may have extra motivation after getting called out once again by Leslie Frazier. The linebackers of course will also have to be solid. Unfortunately the Vikings are banged up in that area with Erin Henderson now nursing what is being described as a slight hamstring issue (to go with his bruised pride over the donation flap). Less Erin means more E.J. in the nickel which is generally not a good thing. Chad Greenway meanwhile will continue his quest to notch his first tackle-for-loss of the season. And we’re paying that guy $8.2 million a year. SMH.
Then there’s the secondary. Antoine Winfield is on IR which doesn’t help the run support. Husain Abdullah suffered a concussion last week and is out, which means we won’t have to watch him whiff on any more jams at the line or get sucked in by any more pump fakes. And of course – drum roll – Benny Sapp is back! There was some question during the week whether Sapp would be ready in time for the game but I have no doubt Benny will be out there as the nickelback. The Vikes may not need a nickelback as much this week with the Raiders liking to run but then again given the Vikings’ decimated secondary maybe the Raiders will switch it up and throw more. Either way the secondary will be tested. Cedric Griffin and Jamarca Sanford are both coming off brutal games vs. Green Bay, and Asher Allen is and always will be mediocre-to-awful. It will be a happy day when the Vikings are finally able to move on from some of these garbage Brad Childress-drafted DBs.
Offensively, it’s all about Adrian Peterson again. Adrian was bottled up Monday night thanks largely to an aggressive Packer blitzing scheme that was as much about stuffing him as getting to Christian Ponder. The Raiders have had some bad games against the run this year, most notably the Bills game where they gave up 223, so theoretically this could be a good week for AD. I say “theoretically” because you never know how the line is going to perform. Hopefully they will be better this week than against the Packers when they got shredded (the Packers threw a lot of blitzes at them but still). One guy who needs to step up big is Phil Loadholt who after a few decent games took a big backward step against Green Bay and that idiot Clay Matthews.
Another guy who could use a bounce-back game is Christian Ponder. I know, I know…he’s only a rookie and I’m not allowed to criticize him. Let’s say this then: Hopefully Christian won’t see as many blitzing DBs this week as he did against Green Bay. Christian spent all night after the Packer game seeing ghostly Charles Woodsons speeding toward him. He woke up screaming once and his groupie almost jumped through the window in terror. I’m sure Christian will get better at reading those blitzes as his career goes on. Hopefully he will also at some point have the kind of receivers who can actually get open when they’re left in one-on-one coverage. Dom Capers’ blitzing scheme was about exploiting Ponder’s inexperience, but it was also about taking advantage of the lack of playmaking wide-outs.
So I’ll ask the generic question: How do the Vikings beat the Raiders? Well it’s simple kids. They have to execute. And by execute I mean not shoot themselves in the foot. If they play a relatively crisp game they should be able to win. It’s a home game and I’m sorry but the Raiders are not that good. By-and-large the Vikings have shown good bounce-back ability under Leslie Frazier. I’m thinking particularly of last season when they were destroyed by the Bears at TCF then came back the next Tuesday and beat the playoff-bound Eagles with Joe Webb at quarterback. My point here being, there shouldn’t be a hangover from Monday night. If there is a hangover? Then maybe we have reason to believe this team has quit. But I don’t think they’ve totally quit, I just think they were never that good to begin with. They’ve got to win the winnable ones, and this week is winnable.