Peterson-less Vikings still a challenge for Oakland

By Anthony Carroll  |   Thursday, November 15, 2007  |  Comments( 28 )

Oakland Raiders
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When you field the 29th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL, no opponent's running game should be taken lightly. The Oakland Raiders need to remember that.

On Sunday, the 2-7 Raiders will travel to Minnesota to meet with the 3-6 Vikings. Minnesota will be without the NFL's leading rusher, rookie Adrian Peterson, who already has over 1,000 yards this season. The 22-year-old suffered a torn right lateral collateral ligament in Week 10 and could miss several more weeks.

This season, Peterson has accounted for nearly 70 percent of the Vikings' rushing yards. Outside of his efforts, the next-closest halfback in terms of yardage is backup Chester Taylor, who has carried the ball 61 times for just over 300 yards.

Currently, Minnesota ranks first in the NFL in rushing, averaging 172.3 yards each game. However, without Peterson they'll find it hard to maintain that rank.

Still, the Raiders can't take Minnesota's ability to run the ball lightly.

Oakland's 'D' lets in 144.2 rushing yards per game, and has already given up 100-plus yard efforts to running backs Travis Henry, LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, LenDale White and Ron Dayne this season. If you think Chester Taylor can't have his way with the Raider defense, think again.

Taylor was a 15-game starter for the Vikings just a short year ago, when he rushed for 1,216 yards and six touchdowns on 303 attempts (4.0 yards per carry). The 213-pounder ranked ninth in the NFL in rushing, and his 95-yard TD run in Week 7 was the league's longest in '06.

Even with Peterson out of the picture, Raiders' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan should be thinking run first. Even Minnesota's starting quarterback, second-year player Tarvaris Jackson, has the ability to run outside the pocket for yardage.

That's not to say he can throw the ball well, though.

Jackson has started just five games this season, and has completed only 46.4 percent of his pass attempts for an even 600 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. It would be in Oakland's best interest to pretend Peterson is still in the game, stack the box and force Jackson to pass.

Plus, the team's biggest weapon through the air this season is 26-year-old journeyman wideout Bobby Wade, who has just 26 grabs for 313 yards. Both of the Raiders' top corners, Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington, are expected to return to action, so Oakland will have a rather favorable matchup in the passing department.

This could be the Raiders most winnable contest since late-September, when they faced the winless Dolphins.

If Oakland can pretend that No. 29 (Taylor) is actually No. 28 (Peterson), Sunday can become a season-salvaging day.

As always with the Raiders, that's a big "if."

Anthony Carroll, a senior writer for RealFootball365.com, can be contacted at acarroll@realfootball365.com
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About Anthony Carroll

Anthony Carroll began writing for RealFootball365.com on Sept. 26, 2005, making him one of the longest tenured contributors to the “365” team. As a senior writer, Anthony has taken on the task of delivering original content to the silver and black faithful year round, despite having to deal...
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