By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens are nearing the end of a crucial three-game homestand that they absolutely must win in order to remain prevalent in a jam-packed AFC wild card race. They’re final game in this home series is against the Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1). Though far from being playoff contenders, this is a team that the Ravens can ill afford to look past.
Vikings on Offense
When it comes to the Minnesota Vikings, there’s only one player that anyone’s talking about. That player is All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson. And why not? He’s the best running back in the NFL. There is no close second. In a league where running backs have become a dime a dozen, Peterson strikes fear into every defensive coordinator in the league. This includes Ravens DC Dean Pees.
The Vikings will look to establish the run early against a Ravens defense that gave up chunks of yards to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Expect stretch and draw plays to take advantage of Peterson’s speed and an aggressive Baltimore front seven. Look for the Ravens defense to try to contain AP and make this Vikings unit one-dimensional. Something the Vikings don’t want at all.
If Baltimore is successful in defending Adrian Peterson, they’ll rely on the arm of either Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel. Neither appear to be the long-term answer at quarterback, but they’re all Minnesota has and that makes them extremely vulnerable. Without Peterson, the Vikings don’t have talent under center to carry a football team. Ponder’s status is in question for Sundays game after he suffered a concussion last week against Chicago. That may mean Matt Cassel will likely see more time as the starting quarterback. Cassell threw for 243 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Ravens will need to keep an eye on WR Greg Jennings during passing downs. But this is a passing attack that should pose little to no problems for this superior Ravens defense.
Vikings on Defense
The Vikings aren’t very good on defense. And that’s a generous assessment of the unit this year. They’ve been downright bad in almost every statistical category on defense. For starters, they rank dead last in the NFL in points allowed with 30.5. Double that with the fact they ranked 30th in yards allowed and you have a recipe for disaster – which is ironically a fitting description for this Vikings unit. The best player on this defense is Jared Allen, and even he has struggled mightily to get this team in the right direction. He’s notched six sacks this season with 1.5 of those having been made within the last six games.
Of course with an offensive line like the one in Baltimore, Jared Allen may just get his groove back. The Ravens have had problems blocking anyone, though they’ve improved the past two weeks. The Vikings will concentrate their efforts on negating Ray Rice and forcing Joe Flacco to beat them with his arm. That may be a bad idea with both Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones playing at such a high level. Flacco could make them pay on Sunday.
Leslie Frazier is the Head Coach for the Minnesota Vikings. He is 18-30-1 during his time as the head coach. The Vikings are 2-2 all time against the Ravens.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.