EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders both felt compelled to gamble on veteran quarterbacks at different points this season, hoping each could help them stay competitive in their respective divisions.
There are many reasons the Vikings (2-7) are at the bottom of the NFC North and the Raiders (5-4) are on top of the AFC West heading into their game today at the Metrodome, with the success, or lack thereof, of those gambles at the top of the list.
The Vikings chose Donovan McNabb, acquiring him in a trade with Washington before training camp opened. The Raiders paid a hefty price for Carson Palmer, sending a 2012 first-round pick and a conditional second-rounder in 2013 that can become another first rounder to the Bengals after Campbell went down in a win over the Browns in Week 6.
McNabb struggled with a limited Vikings offense, failing to get the passing game going as Minnesota lost five of its first six games. He was replaced in the fourth quarter of a 39-10 loss to the Chicago Bears on Oct. 16 and is now relegated to backing up rookie Christian Ponder.
After a shaky debut against Kansas City, Palmer has shown increasing improvement over the last two weeks as the Raiders starter. He has also solidified himself as a leader on the team in short order, inspiring confidence in his teammates that all was not lost when Campbell broke his collarbone a month ago.
"He means a lot," Raiders running back Michael Bush said. "He's been doing a good job of calling the right plays, getting us in the right position to score points. It's hard coming in for a quarterback to pick all the plays, formations and all that stuff. He's doing a good job."
Palmer got his first action in relief of Kyle Boller against the Chiefs on Oct. 23, less than a week after the Raiders brought him in. He was 8 of 21 for 116 yards and three interceptions in a 24-0 loss in Kansas City, but it hasn't taken him long to get his rhythm back. He threw for 332 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in a loss to Denver the next week, then was 14 for 20 for 298 yards, two TDs and one interception in a 24-17 win over San Diego last weekend.