Raiders At Vikings Preview: Time To Sift Through The Narratives

Narratives in sports are a funny thing. I listen to a podcast that covers Bay Area sports, and to hear the way the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers were talked about Monday was honestly intriguing. I mean, just think of the duality of both situations:

Niners: on the positive side, they’re 2-0, won two games on the road and just murdered the Cincinnati Bengals (who didn’t look terrible Week 1). The negative? They looked awful Week 1, have serious questions about their quarterback, lost their left offensive tackle and they’ve beaten the Tampa Bay Bucs and Bengals.

On the podcast, the outlook was all positive. Things are trending up in San Francisco! 2-0!

Then you have the Raiders: on the positive side, they beat the Denver Broncos and looked convincing Week 1. On the negative side, they got annihilated by the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. The narrative? How disappointing are the Raiders — Week 1 was a mirage, etc.

Had the Niners been forced to play Patrick Mahomes in Week 2, I wonder how different things would be? Had the Raiders gotten to play the Bengals last week, would the roles be flipped?

The point of this isn’t to compare the Raiders and Niners — but simply to instill a bit of perspective into the conversation. Yes, the Raiders got killed by the Chiefs on Sunday — but it was the Chiefs. This is the first or second-best team in the league! This is what was expected to happen!

So why should we allow our tone to change when the expected happened? It honestly beats me. (And I would have said the same thing after Week 1 when some people had anointed this group as a 2019 playoff team).

So, where does that leave us? Well, heading into a Week 3 matchup in Minnesota against the Vikings, it leaves us with a lot of questions that we’ll need a few weeks to get answered…

Will the real Derek Carr please stand up?

Against the Broncos, Carr wasn’t touched — and as a result, he looked fantastic. Against the Chiefs? Not so much. Sacked three times, two interceptions and an overall less convincing performance. So what gives?

This week the Raiders will face another of the league’s most talented defensive units — and for the first time, they’ll do so on the road. This is a big week for Carr because while he silenced a lot of critics in Week 1, the haters got all the fuel they needed on Sunday. While the availability of Josh Jacobs and Tyrell Williams will play a big role in evaluating Carr, he needs to have a multi-touchdown, high-yardage game in order to keep the momentum going. Both Jacobs and Williams are expected to play, for what it’s worth.

Defensive backfield: strength or weakness?

Coming into the season, the defensive backfield was believed to be as deep as ever in Oakland. They had two clear-cut starting corners with some youthful depth behind them and a safety room that featured a high-priced free agent and a pair of first-round picks.

In Week 1, the Raiders looked good back there — but that was with rookie Johnathan Abram playing a prominent role. With him since lost for the season (and forced to face off against the best quarterback in the league), Week 2 was a coming-back-to-earth moment.

This week the Raiders will play one of the most dynamic receiver tandems in the league in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs — and so a lot of pressure will be on Daryl Worley and Gareon Conley to perform well. And oh-by-the-way, I’d be curious to see if those Jalen Ramsey rumors might add a bit of extra motivation?

Third-down conversions

So far this season, the Raiders are a remarkable 16 of 28 on third-down conversions. Can they keep that up against Minnesota? The Vikings have allowed opponents to convert on just 30% of their opportunities — and so which of these two numbers gives might determine how this game goes.

Prediction: 

I really like the Vikings as one of the best teams in the NFC, and so it’s hard to pick against them at home. That said, I think the Raiders gain some confidence in knowing they can keep things competitive against teams not named Kansas City, which will help them move forward after this one.

Vikings 27, Raiders 24

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