It is a situation the Baltimore Ravens have been been in since earlier in the season as they are the current holders of a playoff spot and would not be doomed with a loss, but the Ravens still are in must wind mode this week against the Minnesota Vikings due to their remaining schedule.
A loss would not doom the Ravens, but when you look at their remaining four games, this week is a must win against the Vikings due to having to go to Detroit, host New England and going to Cincinnati to finish out the season.
Minnesota is not a very good football team and this is a game Baltimore is supposed to win, but they will have to deal with arguably the best player in the league in running back Adrian Peterson. History has taught us that the old saying "you can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him," is actually true with Peterson. Every once in a blue moon a team does actually stop Peterson, but most teams are successful by containing him to a degree and stopping the rest of the offense.
The Vikings come in with one of the worst quarterback carousels we have seen in quite sometime and courtesy of the roulette wheel, Matt Cassel will be starting at quarterback for Minnesota on Sunday and does not input fear at all into opposing defenses. Minnesota ranks in the bottom third of the league in passing and 23rd in sacks allowed per game, thus Baltimore should be able to have somewhat of a field day with their pass rush.
Bottom line for Baltimore is to find a way to keep Peterson to around the 100 yard mark and not to see bust out for 200 yards. If the Ravens can keep him around the century mark with seven guys in the box, Minnesota's offense is going to be in trouble with Baltimore's secondary able to remain intact. Peterson is not a guy you are going to stop and he is going to get his yards, but if you contain him, the Vikings offense tends to struggle.
Baltimore's offense has played better as of late, they just haven't been able to punch it in for six when they get in the redzone, but overall they are moving the football down the field much better than earlier in the season. Yards should not be an issue for the Ravens on Sunday as the Vikings are third worst in all of football allowing an average of 408.2 total yards per game.
We anticipate that Head Coach John Harbaugh will try to get the running game going early on to set up the play action later in the game, but if Harbaugh and Joe Flacco figure out early that they can pass all over the defense, they will do that. One key for Baltimore's offense will be protecting Flacco in the pocket. The Vikings pass rush is an underrated bunch and although their 2.3 sacks per game ranks them 23rd in the NFL, they are coming off of a four sack performance last week and protecting Flacco has been an issue at times for the Ravens this season. If Baltimore's offensive line can keep Flacco upright, it is going to be a good day for the Ravens offense.
This is a scary game for Ravens fans because you expect Baltimore to win, but on the same side you also realize they are facing one of the best football players on the planet in Peterson. A win on Sunday would get the Ravens back over the .500 mark and inch them closer to securing a spot in the postseason for a sixth straight season.
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