Can the Vikings win the battle in the trenches?
This was presented in our “Matchups to Watch” article this week, but the battle in the trenches will be something that will determine the winner of this game.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Vikings will be going up against a Raiders defensive line that (as we previously mentioned) has held its opponents to 126 yards rushing (fourth in the NFL) and 2.8 yards per carry (fifth in the NFL). In addition, the Raiders have several run-stuffers upfront, including Johnathan Hankins, who has recorded a 17.6 percent run stop rate according to Pro Football Focus (fifth in the NFL among defensive tackles).
With the running game being the money maker for the Vikings in the first two weeks, it will be up to Dalvin Cook, who leads the league in rushing yards and touchdowns, and the offensive line to clear space to get the offense going.
The same goes for the battle on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders have done a great job rebuilding their offensive line as 2018 first-round pick Kolton Miller and free-agent acquisition Trent Brown have not allowed a sack or knockdown throughout the first two games. Oakland will also get stronger in this area as Richie Incognito will return from a two-game suspension on Sunday.
The return of Incognito should help bolster a run offense that already is averaging 4.8 yards per carry (10th in NFL), which should make for a tougher task for the Vikings defensive line. Although the Vikings have done a decent job stopping the run with 217 yards allowed, it will be on Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen in the middle to slow down the Raiders’ rushing attack.