On Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings will host the Oakland Raiders at U.S. Bank Stadium. There are important match-ups to consider when trying to determine a winner, but the running backs likely hold the keys to victory. Rookie running back, Josh Jacobs, must have a great game in order for the Raiders to leave Minnesota with a victory.
Josh Jacobs Holds the Key to Victory in Week Three
Running Back Play Will Be Key
While there a few key match-ups worth identifying for Sunday’s contest between the Raiders and Vikings, the most important will be between the running backs. The wide receiver group for the Raiders took a significant hit with the departure of Antonio Brown before the start of the season. This has left Josh Jacobs as the main driving force of the offense for the Raiders. The Raiders’ offense revolves around a power running game and Jacobs is at the front of their running attack. The Vikings have a notoriously tough defense to run the football on and currently rank 11th in the league in rushing yards allowed.
Jacobs has hit the ground running, no pun intended, since being drafted by the Raiders in the first round this past off-season. Jacobs was never a three-down back at Alabama, but he’s been nothing short of that since the Raiders’ week one contest against the Denver Broncos. In that contest, Jacobs carried the ball 23 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns. To put that into perspective, Jacobs only carried the ball 120 times during his last year at Alabama. While Tyrell Williams is proving to be worth what the Raiders paid for him in the off-season, he alone isn’t enough to carry the passing attack for the Raiders. If the Raiders want to win this Sunday, then they’ll need another big contribution from their first-round pick.
The Other Key Match-ups
Tyrell Williams vs. Xavier Rhodes
Tyrell Williams has proven to be worth every penny and then some since signing with the Raiders this past off-season. So far in the first two games of the season, Williams has accumulated a total of 11 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Williams seems to be a natural fit as the primary wide receiver for the Raiders so far and should continue to receive the bulk of the looks in the passing game. Xavier Rhodes is currently tied for 13th in receptions allowed by defensive backs (10) and is tied for 12th in tackles (11), but has yet to register an interception. Rhodes has been widely considered a top-10 defensive back in the league for the last two years or so now and seems to be off to another good start for the 2019 season. This is definitely a match-up that Williams will need to get the better of if the Raiders plan on securing a victory against the Vikings.
Vontaze Burfict is another new addition to the defense of the Raiders this season and has immediately stepped into the role of team captain since arriving. He’s essentially the quarterback of the defense, as most middle linebackers are, and has been responsible for relaying audibles and things of that nature from defensive coordinator Paul Gunther. Burfict knows how the Raiders’ defense operates from his time with Gunther in Cincinnati. It’ll be up to his leadership and play-making abilities to help prevent the Vikings’ run game from carving up the Raiders’ defense.
Dalvin Cook has come into the 2019 season on fire, leading the league in rushing yards (265) and tied for first in rushing touchdowns (3) through the first two games. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has seemed to have found the key to success for the Vikings; keep the football out of the hands of Kirk Cousins and run the football. As long as the Vikings stick to this formula, then they shouldn’t have too much difficulty winning games this season. Even if they fall behind early, Kubiak has to be smart enough to stick with feeding Cook the ball.
In the end, this game is going to come down to who can run the ball better. If the Raiders can get off to an early lead and force the Vikings to throw the ball, then they’ll be sitting pretty. The book is out on Cousins and teams don’t fear him anymore, even considering that they have one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. The Raiders will need to feed the ball to Jacobs early and often and hope that they can crack that top-tier defensive front the Vikings currently possess. The last thing they want is to be forced to rely on the arm of Derek Carr alone.