In week 11, the Oakland Raiders play the 2-7 Minnesota Vikings, a team that was just shellacked by the Packers on Monday night, a team reeling from injuries and which is starting a rookie quarterback. The other three teams in the division play teams with a combined record of 17-10. On its surface, this seems to be a golden opportunity for the Raiders to move another game ahead of their divisional rivals. Here's a preview of each individual game.
Jets @ Broncos: This will be an interesting matchup on Thursday night. The Jets come into the game having been tossed around like rag dolls against the Patriots, committing a ton of turnovers and generally looking awful. The Broncos, on the other hand, rode a triple-option offense to a complete destruction of Kansas City on the road. The Broncos are 3-1 with Tim Tebow as the starter and seem to be tailoring the offense to his strengths, which means they run a lot. It's difficult to tell how well this will work against the Jets, who allegedly have a good rush defense but actually rank 15th against the run allowing 116 rush yards per game. I don't think Tim Tebow throws more than 15 passes in this game, but I also don't think the Broncos will be able to shred the Jets' defense like they did the Chiefs'. Jets win by three points.
Raiders @ Vikings: The Vikings were so awful earlier in the year they benched Donovan McNabb midway through their sixth game in favor of rookie QB Christian Ponder. He hasn't been much better, defeating only Carolina and dropping two games to Green Bay. The Vikings have not won a game in their division and their offense consists mostly of Adrian Peterson trying futilely to weave his way through eight-man fronts. The Vikings also lost Antoine Winfield to season-ending injury, although the team has been better without him in the lineup so that may not necessarily be a major loss.
The Raiders, on the other hand, are riding high after a dominant victory over the Chargers last Thursday. Carson Palmer was spectacular and Denarius Moore has turned into a serious weapon. Michael Bush has proved to be a more than adequate replacement for Darren McFadden and the offensive line is playing well. The line play is key, because the strength of Minnesota's team is their defensive line. If the Raiders can keep Jared Allen away from Carson Palmer, the Raiders should have no trouble moving the ball with ease. However, the Raiders are not great at stopping the run, and that's bad news against the league's best running back. However, the total lack of a passing threat from Minnesota allows Oakland to stack the box, and Peterson's success might come through the air as Arian Foster's did earlier in the year.
I expect the Vikings to try to pass early and often to develop a balanced offense, but I don't think they will be able to and I feel most of Minnesota's drives will stall just like Cleveland's did when they played the Raiders. Oakland will win by twelve points.
Chargers @ Bears: The Bears are currently enjoying a four-game win streak and just demolished the Lions 37-13. They intercepted Matt Stafford four times. None of this bodes well for Philip Rivers, whose offensive line was just manhandled by Oakland and is extremely thin due to rampant injuries. Chicago has an injury to Chris Williams on their offense line, but otherwise are reasonably healthy. Julius Peppers will try to do his best Kam Wimbley impression and harass Rivers all day. I strongly suspect it will work. San Diego is on a four-game skid and I don't expect that to change this week in Chicago. Bears by nine.
Kansas City @ New England: With Matt Cassel out due to a significant hand injury, the Chiefs are left starting Tyler Palko at quarterback. That is a very bad sign against a Bill Belichick defense, even one that is the worst in the league against the pass. The Patriots are still good at rushing the passer, and I expect them to get to Palko early and often. The Chiefs don't really have anything going for them at the moment except a decent pass rush, but Tom Brady gets rid of the ball so quickly that advantage will be quickly mitigated. New England will destroy Kansas City, who will be lucky to win another game this year. Patriots by twenty-six.