After splitting their two first home games, the Oakland Raiders will have their first road test of the season against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
This Sunday will be the first of five straight road games for the Silver and Black, including a “home” game in London. Oakland only won once away from Oakland during the 2018-2019 season.
Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden is not pleased with the schedule:
“I’m still trying to understand how that happened. We’re going to have to deal with it. We just got to showcase our mental toughness. It’s uncommon, maybe unprecedented, maybe unrealistic that this should ever happen in pro football. I’m not excited about it, but we’ll adapt and do the best we can.”
Their opponents on the road include the Vikings, Colts, Bears (in London), Packers and Texans.
Three of the five teams on this road trip made the playoffs last year, and the other two have Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback, and — this week, the Minnesota Vikings — may be a complete football team together for years, according to Derek Carr:
“The thing that is rare [in the NFL] is the continuity of their team. This defense has been around together for a while. They’ve been a top 10 defense seems like every year. They’re really tough, but it’s a good challenge for us.”
One Viking on the offensive finally displaying his talents is running back Dalvin Cook. After having tearing his ACL in 2017, Cook leads the league in rushing with 265 yards on 41 carries.
Cook’s outstanding play reminds Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead of another future Hall of Fame running back:
“The way they looking, they’re gonna keep doing it until you stop them. He reminds me of Adrian Peterson a lot. You can bottle him up all game, but all he needs is one crease and then he’ll hit for 60-plus yarders and 70-plus yarders.
Return Specialist Dwayne Harris did not practice Wednesday and is questionable with an ankle sprain he suffered against Kansas City. Oakland’s leading receiver Tyrell Williams was limited in practice on Wednesday with a hip injury.
There’s hope that they start coming around later this week to practice.
The Raiders cut offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper early Wednesday morning. He was inactive for both games. While one lineman is cut, another one is stepping in.
Richie Incognito will see the field after serving his two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Incognito will join a stout offensive line that’s only allowed three sacks.
He was not allowed to be with the team, but he says he’s been in Arizona with family and friends doing his best to stay in shape, getting ready for the season. Incognito said he looks forward to getting back on the field with his new team:
“It’s exciting to be back. I’m excited about the opportunity to go out and compete with these men. Now it’s time to lay it out on the line and go play ball…I’m hoping to come back and add some nasty edge to that group, get after some people, put some people on the ground to get Josh [Jacobs] going.
Last Sunday, the Raiders faced a happy throwing team in the Chiefs behind Patrick Mahomes, and even though the Vikings offense seems to run through Cook, Gruden knows how dangerous the other weapons on offense are:
“It’s a different kind of challenge. We all know deep down that [Kirk] Cousins is paid to throw the ball and he’s capable of ripping it. I’ve seen him throw for over 4,000 yards. I’ve seen [Adam] Thielen crush people and Stefon Diggs doesn’t mess around either, so we have to deal with it all. We just can’t commit everyone to stop the run and give Cousins a lot of good one-on-one looks on the outside.”
It sounds like Gruden is concerned about his secondary after getting lit up like this past Sunday again. If only — if only — there were an elite corner available.
If the Raiders fail to play well on the road this season, the season could be over when they return home to play the Detroit Lions Nov. 3 at the Coliseum.