The newly crowned first-place Oakland Raiders get their first chance to defend their divisional position on the road when they take on the Minnesota Vikings this weekend, but which team has the overall edge?
Well, to definitively answer that question, we need to look at who has the edge in each phase of the game, while looking at a few other little things. To further set the stage, the Minnesota Vikings will be looking to salvage their pride after a lopsided loss to the Green Bay Packers, and taking down the Oakland Raiders would be a good start.
Let's take a look at who has the edge...
Each slide we'll first take a look at what the numbers tell us, then dive a bit deeper before coming to our conclusion. We'll start with the air attack.
The Oakland Raiders average 228.7 passing yards per game, while the Minnesota Vikings average 180.0, which suggests that the Raiders have the edge here.
But these are cumulative stats for the season, and both teams have underwent changes at QB.
Carson Palmer now leads the Raiders offense, and in three starts, Palmer has completed 41 of 76 passes (53.9%) for 747 yards with five touchdowns to seven interceptions.
Christian Ponder now leads the Vikings offense, and in three starts plus a quarter, Ponder has completed 56 of 111 passes (50.5%) for 744 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Vikings come in with a full healthy stock of receivers in Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu, while Oakland will be without Jacoby Ford leaving them with just Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore as their primary targets.
The Raiders have a deficient TE attack in Kevin Boss, while the Vikings rely heavily on both Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph.
All-in-all, we get the impression that Oakland has the slight edge here when we look at the numbers only, but when we look at available players we see the edge swaying slightly toward Minnesota.
Talent wise, the edge goes to Minnesota, but usage of the game phase goes to Oakland.
The final result, in my opinion, is a dead-even tie.
EDGE: None, both teams are even.
You would think this phase of the game is a no-brainer with the Vikings featuring Adrian Peterson, right?
The Vikings average 145.2 rushing yards per game in comparison to Oakland's 156.2 rushing yards per game.
The Raiders are the fourth ranked rushing team in the NFL while Minnesota is the fifth ranked rushing team.
The Vikings have a total of 12 rushing touchdowns, the Raiders have 11.
Hmmm, same predicament just a different phase.
Adrian Peterson is quite possibly the best running back in the NFL right now, but Oakland's Michael Bush is really making a case for himself by totaling 719 all-purpose yards alongside 5 touchdowns through nine games.
Additionally, each team boasts a wild-card factor other than their primary runner—in Minnesota's case, two wild cards.
The Raiders deploy the shifty Taiwan Jones whose speed and elusiveness is an excellent compliment to Bush, and a terribly difficult element to plan against.
The Vikings feature RB/FB Toby Gerhart whose aggressive down-field running tactics help the Vikings find those key yards while offering a nice change of pace or one-two goaline punch.
But the Vikings also run the wishbone ground formation that feature both Peterson, Gerhart and Percy Harvin who is just as much a running back as he is a receiver.
Due to options, strategic value, and overall player comparison, the Raiders are slightly outmatched here.
One of the brightest spots on this Vikings team has been Jared Allen and the overall ability for the Vikings defensive line to get to the quarterback.
The Vikings are technically tied for third in the leagues for sacks (27), but let's not forget the Raiders who are not that far behind with 23.
While the Vikings are ranked higher, and have a bit more success, the Raiders are incredibly dangerous off the line, especially from that outside edge.
I believe the Vikings have the edge, but very slightly indeed.
Stanford Routt, Lito Sheppard, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chris Johnson—do any of these players sound familiar outside of possibly Lito Sheppard?
Well if not (Raiders fan excluded here obviously) they shouldn't be underestimated, because it is these four players that make up a dangerously deceptive secondary, that just happens to be backed up by a safety department led by Tyvon Branch and Michale Huff.
The Vikings have enough talent on their own roster to "hang" with the likes of Oakland, but the Vikings entire secondary has not lived up expectations, and to make matters worse, the Vikings yet again could be without another player in their coverage department—Husain Abdullah, concussion—according to the Pioneer Press.
But the bottom line here is that the Raiders entire secondary is simply better than Minnesota's, and there is little debate here.
Both of these coaches are young, but despite their youth, they are vastly different.
Jackson is an aggressive style coach with great in-game management skills, while Leslie Frazier is a little laid back, and has been highly scrutinized for his inability to manage a game properly.
Jackson has also shown better player management, and the raiders coaching staff seems to have an overall slight edge to Minnesota's.
Here's the dilemma:
The Vikings are better at third down conversions (40.3 Vikings, 38.9 Raiders), but the Raiders are better at total third down conversion percents ALLOWED (Raiders 40.5, Vikings 44.5).
Both teams are about even in the special teams department, and in terms of time of possession and points per game, we'd be splitting hairs at best.
Why am I telling you this? The issue here is that despite their individual records being vastly different, these two teams are very much alike in almost every characteristic.
They both favor a stellar rushing attack, both posses an inconsistent passing attack and both have a better than average defense.
Statistically, even the numbers are extremely close in a ton of categories.
If that' not enough, one team is playing to keep their first place rank, while the other team is playing to regain some of their pride.
So who's the the team with the edge, and how in the world can i even come to a decision?
There is one major component that I have not discussed yet, and it is one that can make even an average team look a lot better than they may appear to be.
It's a phase of the game that can also make a good team look incredibly horrible.
This has been the Achilles Heel of the Vikings all season long. In reality, the Vikings could also be entering this contest as a 5-4 team, but instead, they let four games slip away that should've been won.
It's interesting isn't it? Two teams that are nearly identical, and if you factor in the games the Vikings should've won, they would be near-mirror images of each other.
When the dust settles, however, the overall edge is given to the Oakland Raiders. Obviously, this is not to say that the Vikings can't in fact beat them, and to be honest, they have a very good chance, but when you lack the ability to close out a game it almost always comes back to bite you in the "end".
Hopefully, we'll see a reversal of fortunes this weekend.
OVERALL EDGE: Raiders
PROJECTED SCORE: 20-17 OT Vikings