No NFL game is easy to play, much less win. But when looking at personnel and pedigree, the Ravens should beat the Vikings on Sunday.
The Vikings aren’t going to roll over, but as far as top-to-bottom talent in the NFL, they aren’t that good. They do have the reigning league MVP (Adrian Peterson) and an elite pass-rusher (Jared Allen), but their quarterback situation is a mess.
In this league, that’s a major problem.
Baltimore enters this game well rested, having played last on Thanksgiving Night. They’ve won two in a row and three in a row at home. I won’t call this an easy game, but it’s perhaps Baltimore’s most favorable game of the year.
So let’s get right to it. Here are my five keys to the game for the Ravens.
1. Stop Peterson
Forget trying to contain Adrian Peterson. Try to stop him.
We all know how amazing Peterson is, but you can’t afford to assume he will get his way. Otherwise you’ve already mentally conceded to the opposition.
Fortunately, the Ravens are led by a group of strong-willed defenders that rank 6th in the NFL in run defense (100.1 yards per game).
2. Block Allen
While Jared Allen only has six sacks through 12 games this year, he’s only two years removed from a 22-sack season. Allen is the Peterson of the Minnesota defense. Though the opposition knows what’s coming, they can hardly stop it.
Eugene Monroe has been playing well as of late, but regardless, the Ravens would be wise to help him block Allen with backs and tight ends. If they can neutralize Allen, it will go a long way in helping them win.
3. Make Ray Rice the offensive focal point
The last time these two teams played, Adrian Peterson totaled 26 touches for 166 yards (6.4 average) and no touchdowns. Ray Rice totaled 20 touches for 194 yards (9.7 average) and two touchdowns.
This is the perfect opportunity for Rice to show the Vikings and the league he’s capable of out-performing last year’s MVP. In his last 14 games (postseason included), Ray Rice has only topped 75 rushing yards once (Week 10 at Chicago).
Enough is enough. Make a statement.
4. Capitalize on their weaknesses
Matt Cassel will start at quarterback for the Vikings. He’s actually played fairly well this year. His touchdown/interception ratio is only 5/4, but he’s completing 63.6 percent of his passes.
When Peterson is ripping off huge runs, Cassel is fine. But if the Ravens bottle up the Vikings’ run game and force Cassel to beat them, it won’t be good for Minnesota.
Another major Vikings weakness: playing away from home. Minnesota is the only remaining team in the NFL that has yet to win a road game this season.
5. Don’t look ahead
Next week, the Ravens head to Detroit for a Monday night match up against Calvin Johnson and the Lions. There will be a lot of hype surrounding the game and probable projections that Johnson and Matthew Stafford will have their way with the Baltimore secondary.
That said, the Ravens have used up their entire margin of error. They cannot afford to look past the Vikings.
Prediction: Ravens 30, Vikings 20