Both the Oakland Raiders and the Minnesota Vikings started the 2019 regular season with big wins, then, both squads got their first taste of defeat a week later in Week 2.
Now, sitting at 1-1, both teams don’t want to fall under .500 in the early goings of the year, and for the Silver and Black in particular – with the road trip to end all road trips starting – a win would go a long way.
Kickoff is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PT at U.S. Bank Stadium; here are three matchups to watch once the two teams get down to business.
Maurice Hurst and Johnathan Hankins vs. Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury and Josh Kline
Statistically speaking, if you look at the Vikings offense, they don’t blow you away – they’re ranked No. 20 in total offense, just for your information.
But, if there’s one thing they do really well, its run the ball – in fact, the Baltimore Ravens and their 223.5 rushing yards per game are the only team in the NFL who run the ball more effectively than the Vikings.
And to be fair, with Dalvin Cook, heading up their rushing attack, it’s no shock that Minnesota has found so much success in the early goings of 2019 pounding the rock.
That said, the Silver and Black aren’t too shabby at stopping the run in their own right, so something will have to give Sunday afternoon.
Maurice Hurst, Johnathan Hankins and the rest of the interior defensive line will have their hands full against the Vikings, no doubt about it, but I’m excited to see if the big guys for the Silver and Black can make the Minnesota offense one dimensional, and take away the run.
Let's take a look at the Raiders' current 53-man roster heading into the regular season.
Daryl Worley vs. Adam Thielen
If Paul Guenther’s defense succeeds in taking away the Vikings’ ground attack, Kirk Cousins will be forced to take to the air, and his favorite weapon out wide – at least in the early goings – has been Adam Thielen.
Simply put, Thielen is an absolute beast, and with back-to-back seasons with north of 1,200 receiving yards, he’s a guy that you have to always have eyes on, regardless of where he is on the field.
Thielen’s stats – much like the Vikings’ offense as a whole – haven’t been overly impressive through the first two weeks, but make no mistake about it, Worley and the rest of the Raiders’ defensive backs will have to be on their A game if they want to limit the speedy receiver.
Keep an eye on Lamarcus Joyner as well, since Thielen can operate from the slot too, but I expect Worley and Gareon Conley to get their shots at No. 19 throughout the Week 3 affair.
Considering how the second quarter went for the defense as a whole last weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs, I expect a bounce back performance from the collective of Raiders’ DBs.
Derek Carr vs. Kirk Cousins
I really do see a lot of similarities between the Raiders and Vikings in the infancy of 2019, and that goes for the quarterbacks as well.
Both Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins are quality, NFL quarterbacks, and both have shown time and again that they’re the type of dudes who can put a team on their back; that said, the pair of signal-callers are coming off performances last week that I don’t think will go on their all-time sizzle reel.
It’s a tired cliché, I admit, but it still holds true, both these teams in 2019 likely go as far as their quarterbacks will take them. Yes, a dominant run game makes everything a little bit easier, but come crunch time, either Carr or Cousins will have to make a game-changing play with their arm – or feet.
Both quarterbacks are capable of doing just that; we’ll just have to wait until Sunday to find out which one does it at U.S. Bank Stadium.