MINNEAPOLIS — The Raiders (1-1) hit the road for the first time as they start a treacherous trip with a visit to U.S. Bank Stadium to play the Vikings (1-1) at 10 a.m. Sunday. Here is a breakdown by position:
Derek Carr took a step back from his terrific opening-game performance with a mediocre effort against the Chiefs last week. Still, he has clearly been better than Vikings QB Kirk Cousins this season. The Vikings are trying to take the ball out of his hands as much as possible, but he is more than capable of making plays at times. He just hasn’t done it so far this season.
First-round pick Josh Jacobs has been a revelation for the Raiders. He’s averaging 92 yards per game and sits fifth in the league in rushing through two weeks. Vikings star Dalvin Cook sits atop that list with 265 yards on the ground. He looks to have regained his burst and explosiveness after a slow recovery from knee surgery that cut short his rookie campaign. He’s very dangerous and could also exploit the Raiders’ struggles in covering backs out of the backfield in the passing game.
Tyrell Williams has been very good after being thrust into the leading role following Antonio Brown’s departure. His importance could become even more evident if he’s slowed at all by a hip injury. Tight end Darren Waller is really the only other option in the passing game right now. The Raiders desperately need another receiver to step up. The duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs remains one of the best in the league, even if they are underutilized in the Vikings’ offense.
Both lines have been better than expected, particularly with their run blocking. Running backs have had plenty of holes to hit and both quarterbacks have had their fair share of clean pockets. The Raiders get Richie Incognito back from suspension this week, and both units look fairly similar. An injury to Trent Brown is the great equalizer. He’s questionable after a knee injury took him out of last week’s game. If he’s unable to go, it’s a big edge to the Vikings.
It’s only two games, of course, but the Raiders have been phenomenal against the run and the rebuilt defensive line is a major reason why. Minnesota has the pass rush and reputation edge here for sure, but there is plenty of reason for optimism for the Raiders’ defense at the line of scrimmage.
The working relationship between Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr dates all the way back to college when they were teammates at UCLA. Their chemistry on the field is evident and gives the Vikings one of the best linebacking corps in the league. Barr is banged up, but expected to play. Vontaze Burfict has been very good for a Raiders unit that is quickly improving.
The second quarter against the Chiefs was an abject disaster, but the Raiders aren’t the first team to succumb to that offense. The more concerning issue was the communication breakdowns in the defensive backfield that were allowing receivers to run free. That has to get cleaned up fast. The Vikings’ secondary is nowhere close to what it was in 2017, but it is still very good.
A major storyline in Minnesota this week is actually about kickers. The Vikings just continue to shuffle through guys trying to find someone who can consistently convert kicks. This week they will have to face one of those they cut loose when Raiders’ kicker Daniel Carlson returns to town. Carlson has made 18 of 19 field-goal attempts and all 22 extra points for Oakland after the 2018 fifth-round pick of Minnesota was released by the Vikings after just two games.
This is the start of one of the most brutal road trips in NFL history. The Raiders haven’t been shy about expressing their displeasure. The Vikings were a significant favorite in Week 3 at home last year against Buffalo and turned in a dud of a performance that came back to haunt them in the standings at the end of the year. They have vowed to not let it happen again.