The Vikings will look to get back on the winning track as they return to U.S. Bank Stadium for battle against the Oakland Raiders. Here are five storylines to watch this week as the Vikings prepare for Oakland.
1. Chasing that fast start
In two games this season, the Vikings have seen first-hand what a fast start can do for a team. In Week 1 against Atlanta, the Vikings got out of the gates quickly with a defensive three-and-out followed by a blocked punt and then a two-play touchdown drive. After 23 offensive snaps in that game, the Vikings were up 21-0 and never looked back. Last week in Green Bay, it was the Vikings opponents who started fast, as the Packers built a 21-0 lead through the first 16 minutes and barely held on to defeat the Vikings. So, starting fast will be a theme of discussion this week at TCO Performance Center for the Vikings. Discussing it is one thing. Getting it done is another.
View images of past games between the Raiders and the Vikings.
2. Vikings eyeing a Mike Hughes return soon?
Is this the week cornerback Mike Hughes makes his return? The Vikings 1st-rounder from 2018 has been working hard to make it back from a knee injury that ended his rookie season on October 14 and his return, whenever it happens, will be a boost for a Vikings secondary that is coping with an injury to nickel cornerback Mackensie Alexander and the suspension of Holton Hill. Hughes was taken off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list before the season, which is an indication the team is optimistic for a return before Week 6.
3. Diggs, Thielen poised for breakout performances
For a duo as productive as Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen were in 2018, the production so far in 2019 for this tandem has been relatively modest. The two have combined for 11 catches, 204 yards and one touchdown on 20 targets in two games. Their matchup this week against the Raiders would appear favorable because there’s nothing modest about the production Oakland has surrendered through the air. No team has allowed more passing yards than the Raiders (682), plus the combined production for the top two wide receivers for each of the Raiders opponents amounts to 24 receptions for 427 yards and three touchdowns, a stat line that does not include tight end Travis Kelce’s numbers from last week (seven receptions for 107 yards and one touchdown).
4. Ground game – something’s gotta give
A much better matchup in Sunday’s contest will be Dalvin Cook and the Vikings rushing attack versus Oakland’s stout run defense. Through two games, Oakland has allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards (126) and they rank fourth in yards per carry allowed at 2.8. The Vikings, meanwhile, have been running seemingly at will through two games. Behind Cook’s fast start (two 100-yard games), the Vikings rank tied for second in rushing yards (370), fourth in per-carry average (5.7) and tied for the most rushing scores (four).
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.
5. Raiders offense has talent, and some of that talent is injured
Quarterback Derek Carr is one of Oakland’s best offensive players and he’s healthy for Sunday’s game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Right tackle Trent Brown, running back Josh Jacobs and receiver Tyrell Williams are also some of Oakland’s best offensive players, but they aren’t completely healthy and their status bears monitoring heading into Sunday’s game. Brown was a big-time free agent signing this offseason and can hold down the right tackle job for seasons to come, but a knee ailment caused him to leave last week’s loss to Kansas City. Jacobs is a rookie but has quickly shown he belongs in the NFL, generating 212 yards and two touchdowns on 36 offensive touches in two games; he’s dealing with a groin injury heading into Week 3. Williams, a speedy receiver averaging 13.7 yards per catch this season and 16.2 yards per catch for his career, will be a threat against the Vikings secondary but he’ll have to overcome a hip pointer before he can take the field on Sunday.