Ahead of the Week 14 matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Minnesota Vikings, Christopher Gates of The Daily Norseman was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Vikings for Raider Nation, sponsored by DraftKings Sportsbook.
Question: The Vikings’ quarterback situation seems to be fluid as Josh Dobbs’ magic appears to be wearing off. So, who do you think will line up under center on Sunday and what are your expectations from the position?
Answer: I think they’re going to stick with Dobbs, to be honest. I’m not sure if it’s the choice that I’d make, but Dobbs probably gives the Vikings the best chance of winning now out of the three options they have available, and Kevin O’Connell has made it clear that he thinks this team can make a push for the postseason, so I think Dobbs will be the choice.
[Editor’s note: NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported on Wednesday that Dobbs will remain the Vikings’ starting quarterback this Sunday.]
The only expectation that I have for the quarterback position is for whoever’s lined up back there to stop turning the ball over. The Vikings have had seven turnovers over their last two games, with Dobbs being personally responsible for six of those seven, including four interceptions against Chicago in their last game.
The formula for the Vikings has been simple this year: If they don’t turn the ball over, they win football games. When they keep handing the ball over to the other team, they lose. If this team does have a postseason push in them, they’re going to have to mitigate the turnover issue as much as they possibly can.
Q: Justin Jefferson’s absence allowed Jordan Addison to make a name for himself over the last couple of months. Both guys are good receivers individually, but how do you think they’ll complement each other, especially since they’ve only played a handful of games together?
A: I think they’ll complement each other quite well, and it’s hard to overstate just how much Jefferson’s absence is going to benefit Addison in the short term. Sure, it hurts to lose the reigning Offensive Player of the Year, but it gave Addison the opportunity to jump into the #1 wide receiver role, and he’s certainly had his moments.
I think Addison could potentially be used as more of a deep threat with Jefferson returning, but given that they’re both pretty versatile, they should be able to give opposing defensive coordinators headaches for a long time to come.
They’re both precise route runners, but Addison has had a few instances this season where he’s lacked awareness and has also had a couple of drops that shouldn’t have happened. He’ll continue to get better, and the Vikings’ offense should get better as a result.
Q: Danielle Hunter is having an excellent season at the right time with this being a contract year. What makes him so difficult to block?
A: Danielle Hunter being so good starts, quite simply, with the fact that he’s a physical freak. There’s no way a guy who’s as big as he is should be able to move the way he does. He’s the prototypical outside linebacker/pass rusher for today’s game because he’s got size, speed, strength, and a variety of moves that he can use to make life miserable for opposing offenses.
He’s one of the few defensive players in the league that can single-handedly change the flow of a game and he’s still young enough where he should be able to do that for a long time to come.
Like most of the great pass rushers we’ve seen, Hunter can beat offensive linemen in a number of different ways, and his crazy athletic ability gives him a little more leeway when it comes to making mistakes because he can get back into the play after a misstep or something similar. He’s going to make a lot of money this offseason, and I really hope it’s the Wilf family that’s signing the checks.
Q: From an outsider’s perspective, one player that has burst onto the scene this year is Cam Bynum, who is currently Pro Football Focus’ fifth-highest graded safety. Can you tell us about Bynum’s development over the last three years and what he brings to Minnesota’s defense?
A: Bynum got an opportunity a couple of seasons ago when Harrison Smith missed a couple of games with COVID and was placed into the starting lineup. He did a little bit of everything during his career at Cal, and that’s shown with the way the Vikings have used him.
He’s not afraid to get dirty in run support and he’s solid in coverage as well. I’m not sure if he’s going to be the guy who can completely replace Smith when it comes time for him to hang it up, but he’s certainly trending the right way.
Bynum is one of a bunch of players that have benefitted from the new scheme that Brian Flores has brought to the table. He’s being used in a way that allows him to just play football and get after ball carriers and receivers instead of having to overthink things. The Vikings have been able to play a lot of three-safety looks this year, and the development of Bynum has gone a long way toward those looks being successful.
Q: The Raiders are a field goal home dog on DraftKings Sportsbook. In your opinion, what do they need to do to pull off the upset against the Vikings, and can you give us a final score prediction?
A: If the Raiders want to emerge victorious on Sunday, they need to follow the formula that every other team that’s beaten the Vikings has followed: Capitalize on their mistakes.
The Vikings turned the ball over a lot during the early part of the season when they started 1-4, and they’ve had turnover issues again over the past couple of weeks. If the Raiders’ defense can generate those sorts of plays, even if they don’t get a ton of points from them, they’ll still take opportunities away from the Vikings and take steps toward winning on Sunday.
I would like to think that the bye week for the Vikings gave them an opportunity to take stock of where they are, to get Dobbs more comfortable with the offense than he’s been, and to convince him that sometimes taking a sack or throwing the ball away is the best outcome rather than trying to play “hero ball” like we’ve seen a couple of times over the past few weeks.
The Vikings need this one if they want to push for the playoffs, and I think they’ll get it in a low-scoring game, something along the lines of 20-17.