The Oakland Raiders are sitting atop the AFC West division with a 5-4 record and are coming off a win over their biggest competition on primetime TV - the San Diego Chargers on Thursday Night Football. The Raiders thoroughly dominated that game, and with that domination came first place in the division and an awful lot of confidence for some guys who sorely need it, Carson Palmer in particular.
That 24-17 win saw Palmer throw for just under 300 yards (299) and running back Michael Bush rush for 157 yards as the starter in place of the injured Darren McFadden. Perhaps the most impressive was Denarius Moore and his 123 yards receiving ... or maybe it was Jacoby Ford an his spectacular catch to keep his feet in bounds on one of the many big receptions in that game.
In short, it was just a wholly impressive outing.
Now they'll keep on truckin' on the road with a trip to the Metrodome to take on the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The Vikings are set to play on Monday Night Football against the rival Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Earlier in the season, Minnesota gave rookie quarterback Christian Ponder his first NFL start, benching Donovan McNabb ... he got that start against the Packers at home, and he almost led his team to a win over the rivals. Minnesota, at the time with a lone win on their record, almost beat the undefeated Packers with a rookie quarterback making his first start.
Did that sink in? Hope so - though it's not likely that the Vikings get it done when playing on Green Bay's turf. That being said, the Raiders really do have to remain on standby for this game. After just hitting their stride and sitting atop their division, they still are just one loss away from being back at .500. The Raiders can't overlook the Vikings, even if they lose on Monday Night - it just can't happen. The AFC West is too close right now to make careless mistakes.
The key, obviously, will be to contain Adrian Peterson. The thing that gives Peterson the edge in these situations is because teams spend so much time preparing for the new players, like Ponder, so naturally less time is spent preparing for Peterson, the real threat on offense. It's not so cut and dry as to say that the Raiders will overlook one of the league's top three running backs, but they just need to remember that Ponder is a rookie, albeit a rookie that is playing well.