The Baltimore Ravens (6-6) have now won two in a row and three of their last four and appear to be peaking at the right time for a playoff run. Still it won’t be easy to hold that sixth and final playoff spot. There’s still a mix of teams only a game behind them in the race so as usual every game in December is crucial.
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This week they complete a three game home stand with the Minnesota Vikings coming to M & T. The Vikings (3-8-1) have had a season of disappointment after being unable to follow up a surprising 2012 playoff appearance. They have ben unable to notch a win on the road and had issues with quarterback play all year. Still they have one of the most dangerous runners in the history of the game at their disposal.
Can the Ravens continue their playoff push? What about playing in the snow? How will the weather effect the Baltimore deep passing game? Let’s take a look at the few of the key match-ups for the today’s game.
Ravens Defensive Front Seven vs. Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson is not only one of the greatest running backs this season he may also be listed among the best all-time at his position. Even though he continues to nurse a sore groin he still ranks as the top rusher in the league. He is equally dangerous after contact where he averages 3.1 yards. Compare that to the Ravens anemic 2.9 ypc and it should give you a clear idea what the Ravens defense is up against.
Baltimore’s defense has been much improved this season but they will hard pressed to shut down A.P. At best they will need to play fundamentally sound football and execute the basics to limit him as much as they can.
Ravens Offensive Tackle Eugene Monroe vs. Vikings Defensive End Jared Allen
Over the past few weeks Monroe has probably been the Ravens best lineman. He has some convinced that the team should offer him a long-term deal next season to monitor Flacco’s blind side.
The Vikings have struggled to maintain a consistent pass rush and rank in the bottom third of the league. Allen, a Five-Time Pro Bowler has been a fierce rusher over his career but much like his team he’s having a bit of a down year with only six sacks to his credit. Still he’s dangerous and along with fellow end Brian Robison they still pose a threat to a Ravens line that has had trouble keeping defenders out of the backfield.
Ravens Wide Receiver/Returner Jacoby Jones vs. Vikings Cornerback Chris Cook
It’s interesting to note that with a now healthy Jones back in the lineup returning kicks and catching deep passes the Ravens attack has been energized. Jones’ game breaking speed helped last Thursday in both aspects and with a Vikings secondary that has been victimized all year Jones could be poised for another big game.
Cook is coming off a rough meeting with Chicago last week where Alshon Jeffrey abused him deep repeatedly for two deep scores. Cook was so frustrated he was hit with a fine for pushing the side judge. I think Joe Flacco will definitely look to test him this afternoon.
Ravens Tight End Dennis Pitta vs. Vikings Red Zone Defense
Yes, Dennis Pitta is active today though it should be interesting to see just how much time he sees. I’d expect him to get some snaps down in the red zone where his solid hands could greatly improve Baltimore’s fortunes in putting up six instead of settling for three. The Ravens are 48% for the season, which is bottom third in the NFL. Even if Pitta’s snaps are limited he could greatly improve this area.
The Vikings defense hasn’t been very good in the red zone averaging giving up 2.5 touchdowns a game.