The Vikings will take their four-game winning streak on the road this week, traveling on Friday to California for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.
Here are five of the biggest storylines we'll be chasing in the build-up to Week 10.
1. Young QB-WR duos set to square off
Two up-and-coming QB-WR duos will share the field in Oakland on Sunday. For the Vikings, it's QB Teddy Bridgewater and Stefon Diggs. For the Raiders, it's Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. Bridgewater (No. 32 overall) was taken four picks ahead of Carr (No. 36) in the 2014 NFL Draft. In 20 starts, Bridgewater is 12-8 with a 20-18 TD-INT ratio and an 84.6 passer rating, while in 24 starts Carr has compiled a 7-17 record, a 40-16 TD-INT ratio and an 85.2 passer rating. Cooper was the first WR and fourth overall player selected in this year's draft; he leads all rookie WRs in receiving yards with 653 in eight games. Diggs was selected in the fifth round (No. 146) and is second among all rookie WRs with 461 receiving yards despite playing in only five games.
2. Vikings defense vs. high-scoring Raiders offense
The Vikings are the only team in the NFL to hold their opponents to 23 or fewer points in every game this season and they are tied for the second-fewest points allowed per game (17.5). The Raiders offense, meanwhile, is averaging 35.3 points per game over the last three games and they've scored at least 34 points in each of those contests. Those numbers speak for themselves – this is a matchup to watch on Sunday.
3. Playoff pictures developing
Both the Vikings and Raiders are right in the thick of the playoff picture in their respective conferences. The Viking took a step forward last week in defeating the St. Louis Rams; that victory along with a Green Bay loss put them tied atop the NFC North. The Raiders took a small step backwards last week in losing to Pittsburgh, and now they sit in eighth position in the AFC. The playoff picture will take another step in development this week and Sunday's game between the Vikings and Raiders will be a big piece to the puzzle in both conferences.
4. Emergence of Linval Joseph
For most of his career, DT Linval Joseph has done the dirty work in the trenches…the kind of work that makes a huge difference but isn't measured in a box score. That's why he hasn't been a household name during his career. But so far in 2015, Joseph is doing the dirty work at such a high level that even the box score is picking it up. Last week against the Rams, Joseph was credited with 10 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and a half-sack. He made plays on several other snaps that opened things up for his teammates, too. With the Vikings set to face a high-powered Raiders passing game, many will focus on the edge of the Vikings defense – the DEs who will pass rush and the CBs who will cover the pass. But you can be sure the Raiders will be focused on the middle of this defense – namely on Joseph.
Coaches (rightfully so) would rather not talk about it, but injuries will be a storyline this week leading up to Sunday's game. For the Vikings, Bridgewater and CB Terence Newman are in the concussion protocol and a pair of LBs – Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks – are likely to be on the injury report, as well. For Oakland, RB Latavius Murray is going through the NFL's concussion protocol and starting C Rodney Hudson will battle back from an ankle injury that caused him to leave last week's game and not return.