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Vikings and Raiders logos facing off

CONTROL THE CLOCK

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I’d think the game plan for today would be much the same as the game plan against the Packers last week.

Doesn’t exactly inspire, does it? We know how that turned out.

It is a crucial that the Vikings run game gets off to a strong start early. The Raiders have trouble defending the run and they may be without the services of defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who has been listed as questionable with a knee injury. If the Vikings are to wake up Monday with their third victory of the year, they’ll need to control the clock to keep Carson Palmer away from their decimated secondary.

The Vikings do have the Metrodome and their loud hometown fans on their side. They’ve shown that they can get Adrian Peterson out in space in the passing game as well this year, so their “running game” can consist of a short passing game as well.

I assume the Raiders might want to throw a lot of different blitzes at Christian Ponder, as the Packers did last week. Regardless of whether or not the Vikings win, that’s probably a good thing for Ponder who needs all the practice he can get recognizing and responding to blitzes.

Part of Ponder’s ability to deal with blitzes will be finding the open receiver abandoned by the blitzer but another part will be Ponder’s ability to recognize what the Raiders are trying to do pre-snap and calling the audibles to adjust. In order to not just neutralize but to take advantage of blitzes, Ponder will have to implement draws to Peterson and screens to Adrian, Percy Harvin or his tight ends because the Raiders are likely going to do their best to keep Ponder in the pocket.

When the Vikings go deep, Ponder’s accuracy will be under my microscope. The flea flicker play against the Packers was, first of all, an ill-advised throw and secondly, was underthrown. His long passes down the sideline this season have, more often than not, drifted out of bounds before reaching the receiver. It’s better than drifting the other way and giving the defender a chance for pick, I suppose, but still this is a part of Ponder’s game that needs to improve.

Joe Webb finally saw some real action last week, catching an actual reception for some yards. Please, Bill Musgrave, let’s work Webb in to see how he might be a bigger part of our offense next season.

On defense, we can pretty much expect another great game from Jared Allen even knowing the Raiders are going to gameplan against him, likely with multiple tight end sets and chips from backs.

That means Brian Robison is going to have to reappear as an actual pass rushing threat. The best explanation for Robison’s disappearance after such a strong start to the season is that the league has figured him out and he has yet to come up with a response to the adjustments right tackles are making to account for him.

And it’s sad to say that it was surprising to hear Kevin Williams name mentioned during last week’s game. If it was surprising, that means we’d come to expect not to hear his name called.

Has Williams lost that much game that quickly or does he need an inside co-conspirator that much to be effective? Remi Ayodele has been a bust as a run-stopper and Fred Evans hasn’t shown much in the run or pass game.

Is it a coincidence that Kevin Williams re-emerged last week during a game in which rookie Christian Ballard got a lot of snaps?

The Raiders have got some run game. The Vikings lucked out with talented and speedy running back Darren McFadden ruled out for this game but they’ve still got to contend with Micheal Bush, who carried the ball 30 times last week against the Chargers for 157 yards and one touchdown. He caught another three balls for 85 yards.

At six foot one, 245 lbs., Bush is a Michael Turner-type pounding back who will punish you at the line, then punish you at the next level, and then punish defensive backs once he gets by the linebackers. What he won’t do is outrun you the way McFadden can.

But the run game is the least of the Vikings worries.

With Antoine Winfield lost for the season with a fractured clavicle, Chris Cook still persona non grata, safety Husain Abdullah out with a concussion, and now with Erin Henderson hobbled out with a hamstring problem, it’s Carson Palmer and his receiving corps the Vikings have to worry about.

Carson Palmer appears to be hitting his stride with his new team and well-suited to it as well. The Raiders have traditionally liked the long ball and Palmer is pretty good at it.

While he won’t have receiver Jacoby Ford to throw to, talented and speedy rookie Denarius Moore is coming on strong and he also has Darrius Heyward-Bey to throw to.

The Vikings Cover-2 defense is designed to take away the big play over the top, so I could make the argument that all the Vikings need to do is shut down Denarius Moore and they’d be good to go because Heyward-Bey has yet to live up to his first-round pick status.

I could make that argument but I’d be a fool to do so because you, Sophisticated Minnesota Vikings Chat Reader, would no doubt point out that starting corner Cedric Griffin has been a shell of his former self, that opposite starter Asher Allen is really a nickle back.

You’d also point out that we had to pick up Benny Sapp (who I really liked when he was a Viking the first time, by the way), who hasn’t played since the first week of the season, to rotate with Marcus Sherels.

You’d point out that safety Tyrell Johnson will be playing alongside Jamarca Sanford and you’d make no small stink about the fact that Johnson has been adept at playing out of position, taking poor angles, and dropping interceptions.

You’d make all those points, Brilliant Reader, and my only recourse would be to back away, palms open and facing you, mumbling I was only saying under my breath.

That is why the Vikings need to control the ball on offense, you’d say, and I’d readily agree.

If they can do that, the Vikings will have a chance against another first-place team.

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THE DEETS

The Vikings host the Oakland Raiders today at Mall of America Field at the Metrodome. Kickoff is at 12 PM CST and the game will be broadcast on CBS nationally and WCCO TV locally.

The radio broadcast is on KFAN-AM 1130/KTLK 100.3-FM locally with your usual crew of play-by-play guy Paul Allen, analyst Pete Bercich and sideline reporter Greg Coleman. Pre-game show starts at 10:30 AM CST.

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