The Oakland Raiders have to leave the State of California for the first time in over a month, and head North to take on the Minnesota Vikings, the first of four games against the NFC North over the next five weeks.
With the suddenly resurgent Denver Broncos right on our tails, this game against the 2-7 Vikings takes on a "must win" feeling to ensure the Raiders can maintain their lead in the AFC West.
Eric Thompson of Daily Norseman, the Minnesota Vikings SB Nation blog, invited Silver and Black Pride to exchange questions and responses in their series "Five Good Questions."
Pass the jump to see Eric's answers to my question about the Minnesota Vikings.
Also be sure to check out Daily Norseman for my answers to Eric's questions about the Raiders.
Silver and Black Pride: Most NFL fans watching the NFL Draft this April were surprised the Vikings took Christian Ponder with the 7th overall pick. Through 4 games are you pleased with Ponder’s performance, and did you agree with Coach Frazier’s decision to make a QB change and bench Donovan McNabb?
Daily Norseman: I'll answer the second part of the question first because it's the easiest to answer--hell yes we agreed with benching McNabb! Each game with Donovan under center made it more and more obvious that he just didn't have it anymore. He made a few good throws and decisions with the ball, but they were way too sporadic to create any semblance of a passing offense. When your #1 receiver is The Turf, that means it's time for a change.
As for Ponder, I think the sample size is still way too small to make any sweeping judgments. He seems to be pretty smart with the ball (unless it involves Charles Woodson) and has used his legs for some big plays. His arm strength hasn't been a concern, but I think most Vikings fans would like to see him improve his accuracy as the season concludes. The offensive line hasn't done him any favors yet either. But I think that he's definitely shown enough promise for us to think that he could be the Vikings' quarterback of the future.
Silver and Black Pride: Observant NFL fans realize the Vikings are a better team than their record indicates, especially since 5 of their 7 losses have been by 7 points or fewer. What is it about the Vikings this season that makes you think they’ve struggled to win close games?
Daily Norseman: Well remember those first three losses came after blowing double-digit halftime leads, so it's tough to lose by more than a touchdown when you're up by that much to begin with! But seriously, that has been the most maddening thing about the team this year--there's obviously a ton of talent in certain areas but it's not translating into wins. Unfortunately I don't think it's just one or two issues that hold the Vikings back. It's a combination of quite a few things--a porous offensive line, a weak/injured secondary, an inexperienced quarterback, and a relatively new coach probably top that list.
Silver and Black Pride: Adrian Peterson is undoubtedly one of the, if not the, best running backs in the NFL. With all that AD does well, what’s one thing Vikings fans wish he did better? Pass catching, blitz pickup, etc?
Daily Norseman: Both of your suggestions are spot on. He's been slightly more involved in the passing game this year, but outside of his 5 reception, 76 yard game in Carolina he hasn't been targeted much. You'd think screen passes to AP would be a great solution to a poor offensive line, but we haven't seen it in the game plan enough yet. He's still pretty shaky in picking up the blitz at times as well. He missed a couple assignments against Green Bay that led to negative plays. Other than that, in my biased opinion he's better than any other player in the NFL at what he does.
Silver and Black Pride: Are you as tired of hearing about Brett Favre as we all are?
Daily Norseman: Shh...listen. Do you hear that? No? Exactly! Because we pretty much haven't said a peep about him since the 2010 season concluded. While the 2011 season has been excruciating for Minnesota fans, one thing we definitely do NOT miss is all the Favre talk. It was a fun ride in 2009, it was a tough-to-watch fall from grace in 2010, and it's a non-story in 2011. Here's to hoping we keep it that way.
Silver and Black Pride: The Oakland Raiders play in one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL that most would not consider historic (such as Lambeau or Soldier Fields). Now that the Twins are out of the Metrodome, is it really that bad of an NFL venue, and would you really want to go to a game in an outdoor stadium?
Daily Norseman: I haven't been to many other NFL stadiums outside the Metrodome, so I can't claim to be an expert on the subject. That being said, after visiting the stadiums they have in Green Bay and Seattle, watching games in the Metrodome kind of feels like I'm getting ripped off. I personally enjoy the hell out watching a Vikings game at the Metrodome; in fact, I'll be there for Sunday's game. But compared to other venues it's incredibly outdated in a lot of aspects. The "big screen" is grainy and tough to read. The sound system has the quality of a $4.99 walkie talkie. The concourses leave a lot to be desired. Throw in the relatively small number of suites and it's simply not a modern day NFL stadium.
As for whether a new stadium is outdoor or indoor, I could personally care less. I just want a stadium in Minnesota! I've been to a handful of Minnesota Golden Gopher football games in TCF Stadium and those have been a lot of fun (despite the terrible quality of the home team). I also understand that being indoors during December in Minnesota is usually much more pleasant. Whether we get a new stadium or become your team's neighbors is an entirely different issue that we've been talking about, but I think I'll stop there. Talking about a 2-7 team at length like this has been depressing enough.
A special thanks to Eric Thompson for contributing to this exchange between Silver and Black Pride and Daily Norseman. Please feel free to ask other questions here, or go onto Daily Norseman and see what the Vikings fans think our my responses to their questions.