A pair of playoff hopefuls will face off in Week 10 when the Oakland Raiders host the Minnesota Vikings. You don't normally associate "playoff hopefuls" with the Raiders and Vikings, but that's the kind of season we're having.
Minnesota sports a 6-2 record and is actually tied with the Green Bay Packers for first place in the NFC North. They'll have to avoid looking past the Raiders with the Packers coming to Minneapolis in Week 11.
The Vikings have gotten to 6-2 the old-school way: running the ball and playing tough defense. That strategy is often easier said than done, but Adrian Peterson sure makes it a lot easier.
Peterson continues to be a difference-maker for the Vikings, rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries against the St. Louis Rams last week. Through eight games, he's leading the NFL with 758 rushing yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Peterson's resurgence is important for the Vikings because Teddy Bridgewater is still a work in progress. He's on pace for just 12 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions, while the Vikings' pass offense ranks just 30th in yards per game. Bridgewater also got concussed on a cheap shot by Rams defender though he was cleared to play this week.
Thankfully, Minnesota's defense has picked up the slack, allowing the sixth-fewest passing yards per game. Everson Griffen leads the way with 4.5 sacks, while Harrison Smith is having one of his best years yet. The Vikings are hardly a complete team, but they keep producing wins and head coach Mike Zimmer deserves credit for getting the team to buy into his hard-nosed style.
The biggest takeaway from the Raiders' season so far? They finally have their franchise quarterback. Derek Carr looks like the real deal, and so far is much further along in his development than fellow 2014 draftees Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel. After eight games, Carr is on pace for 4,188 yards, 38 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, compared to the 12 he threw last year. And after a league-low 5.5 yards per attempt in his rookie year, Carr's average is up to 7.7 in 2015.
Of course, Carr has been helped out by two major weapons in the passing game. Amari Cooper looks as polished as any rookie receiver we've seen in recent years, while Michael Crabtree is enjoying a career renaissance after a 2013 Achilles tear nearly derailed it.
If there's one concern this week, it's the health of Latavius Murray. The league's sixth-leading rusher with 630 yards, Murray suffered a concussion against the Steelers last week. If he's unable to suit up, the Raiders are perilously thin at running back, which would force more on Carr's plate.
As fun as the Raiders have been this year, they're still a work in progress, especially on the defense. Oakland is dead last in passing yards allowed per game and let Antonio Brown run wild on them all day last week. They'll be hard-pressed to stop Peterson in the field and Stefon Diggs could give them nightmares with his crisp route running. If the Raiders miss the playoffs, it will ultimately be the defense dragging down a young and potent offensive corps.
How to watch
When: 4:05 p.m. ET
Where: O.co Coliseum, Oakland
Announcers;, Ronde Barber, Holly Sonders
Online: Verizon NFL Mobile