The Oakland Raiders host the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in a matchup of two potential playoffs teams. Both teams have exceeded expectations in 2015, making for one of the more intriguing games on the Week 10 schedule.
Oakland is coming off a 38-35 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, falling to 4-4 on the season. Minnesota beat the St. Louis Rams in Week 9, improving to 6-2 and moving to the top of the NFC North.
The game is considered to be an even matchup by Las Vegas oddsmakers. The Raiders are three-point favorites at home, according to vegasinsider.com, and the over/under is 44 points.
Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr were drafted just four picks apart last season, going No.32 and No.36 overall, respectively. Two quarterbacks were selected ahead of Bridgewater and Carr, but they’ve had the most success of any signal callers in the 2014 class.
Halfway into his second season, Carr is making a case for AFC Pro Bowl roster spot. Few quarterbacks have put up better numbers than the 24-year-old, who has thrown for 2,094 yards, 19 scores and four interceptions. His 104.3 passer rating ranks sixth in the NFL, and he’s coming off a 300-yard, four touchdown performance against the Steelers.
Bridgewater hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers, throwing six touchdown passes and six interceptions. But he hasn’t made too many costly mistakes, and he gives the Vikings a much better chance to win than Shaun Hill does. Hill was forced to finish Sunday’s game when Bridgewater left with a concussion, though Minnesota’s starting quarterback passed the first test of the NFL’s concussion protocol on Monday.
Winning In Different Ways
Sunday’s game could be a battle of which team’s strength wins out. While Oakland has put themselves in the playoff race with a top offense, Minnesota is tied for first place because of their defense.
The Raiders have made an incredible turnaround after ranking dead last in total offense for the 2014 season. Through eight games, Oakland ranks in the top eight in both yards per game (374.6) and points per game (26.6), which is something only four other teams can say. Rookie wide out Amari Cooper leads the team with 653 receiving yards, and starting running back Latavius Murray is expected to play despite suffering a concussion against Pittsburgh. Oakland’s defense has been a liability, ranking 30th in yards allowed.
Minnesota ranks second in opponents’ points per game (17.5) behind the Denver Broncos, who have allowed just one fewer point than the Vikings. With Adrian Peterson as the league's No.1 rusher, Minnesota looks to win by controlling the clock and playing good defense. They’ve been a model of consistency, allowing no more than 23 points in any game, though they haven’t held any opponent to single digits. The Vikings are 30th in total offense.
No NFL franchise has consistently underachieved like the Raiders since they last made the playoffs in 2002, and while the Vikings have had some success in the last decade, they’ve had just one winning season in the last five years. With young quarterbacks at the helm, the fortunes for these two franchises could be turning as both teams have a good chance to make the playoffs.
Oakland seems to be out of the AFC West race, but they are right in the thick of the AFC wild-card race. They trail the No.6 seed Pittsburgh Steelers by a half-game, and they are just one game behind the No.5 seed New York Jets, against whom they own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Three of the Raiders’ four losses have come against winning teams, and they can make a playoff push by taking advantage of an upcoming easy stretch on their schedule.
The Green Bay Packers are the Super Bowl favorites in the NFC, but they find themselves tied for first place with the Vikings. Minnesota has a two-game lead in the wild-card standings, but they are set to face the toughest part of their schedule.
The Vikings have won their last two road games, but they’ve been much better with Bridgewater at home. Oakland’s only loss at home came to the Broncos, and it won’t be easy for Minnesota to stop the Raiders' explosive offense. Oakland might not put up 30-plus points like they have in each of their last three games, but they could take an early lead, which will be difficult for Minnesota to overcome.
Oakland over Minnesota, 27-20