Ravens Are Unanimous Pick to Beat Vikings
The last time the Minnesota Vikings visited M&T Bank Stadium, they and the Ravens combined to score five touchdowns in the final two minutes, as the Ravens pulled out a chaotic 29-26 win in a snowstorm.
Snow is not in the forecast when the Ravens (5-2) host the Vikings (3-4) on Sunday but given the dramatic finishes the two teams have experienced this season, don't be surprised if this one ends up being another white-knuckler full of twists and turns.
Four Ravens games and five Vikings games this season have gone down to the wire, and each team has played two overtime games.
However, whether Sunday's game is tightly contested or not, all 48 pundits we looked at are in agreement that the Ravens will prevail. Seventeen of the 27 pundits who predicted a score have the Ravens scoring at least 30 points and only one has the Vikings under 20.
"This feels like a spot where the Vikings play better than most people expect, yet find a way to lose painfully," NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal wrote.
Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:
The Ravens have the advantage because they're at home and well-rested (they're 10-3 after the bye week under John Harbaugh).
FanSided's Matt Vederame: "This could go a million different ways. That said, Baltimore is the better team, at home, off a bye. The Ravens are also much better coached."
Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith: "The rested Ravens should handle the Vikings, who look like they're teetering toward a rebuild."
The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker: "The Ravens played their worst game of the season in Week 7, but they will be at home coming off their bye week, and they have generally performed well when they have extra time to prepare under coach John Harbaugh. They know they will have a chance to build on their lead in the AFC North over the next few weeks before their schedule turns brutal in December."
Lamar Jackson's dominance of NFC teams will continue.
CBS Sports' John Breech: "Since taking over the Ravens starting QB job in 2018, Lamar Jackson has started 11 games against NFC teams and he has gone 11-0 in those games, which means I will be picking the Ravens in every game they play against an NFC team going forward until they actually lose one."
The Ravens' offense will exploit a banged-up Vikings defense.
Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer: "The Ravens have the right way to exploit them after a bye with a running quarterback and dangerous downfield receivers."
Rosenthal: "Losing pass rusher Danielle Hunter for the season, on top of cornerback Patrick Peterson's absence, limits what Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer can do defensively."
The Ravens' defense will stifle the Vikings' offense.
Pro Football Talk's Chris Simms: "I don't think the Vikings will be able to run the ball against the Ravens. I think the Vikings' pass game is too simple, so even if the Ravens' pass defense isn't what it was, it's an easy team to break down that way. I have faith in the Ravens' defensive coaches to do that."
Iyer: "Kirk Cousins will see a much-improved Ravens' defense, the one that frustrated the Chargers in Week 6."
On the other hand …
Ravens Wire's Steve Rudden: "Minnesota is somewhat of a middling offense on paper, as through eight weeks they rank 12th in the NFL with 4.5 yards per carry and 14th in the league with 6.6 net yards per passing attempt. However, that doesn't tell the whole story, as players like [Dalvin] Cook, [Adam] Thielen and [Justin] Jefferson are threats to make a house call at any point."
The Ravens have a huge advantage on special teams.
Baltimore Positive's Luke Jones: "With the Vikings losing four games by a combined 15 points, it's worth noting they rank 30th in special teams efficiency with their field goal, punt, and punt return teams being particularly weak. Meanwhile, the Ravens have three one-score victories and rank first in special teams efficiency. It does matter."
FB Patrick Ricard vs. LB Eric Kendricks is a key matchup.
Russell Street Report's James Ogden: "While Kendricks is very good against the run, this week he draws a tough matchup against the best blocking fullback in the league. The Ravens should look to get Ricard to the second level and up against Kendricks where possible. This Vikings run defense has been surprisingly soft up the middle. If you can get in Kendricks' way, the Ravens running back stable will be off to the races."
|ESPN||11 of 11 panelists pick Ravens||NA|
|Baltimore Sun||Ravens 27, Vikings 20||“No one has blown out the Vikings this season. But the Ravens will be rested and eager to put their loss to the Bengals behind them. Their running game will come out of hiding against a porous Vikings front, and Jackson will mix in enough big strikes to get his team back on track.” — Childs Walker|
|USA Today||7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens||NA|
|NFL.com||Ravens 27, Vikings 23||“This feels like a spot where the Vikings play better than most people expect, yet find a way to lose painfully.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||10 of 10 panelists pick Ravens||NA|
|Sporting News||Ravens 31, Vikings 24||“The Vikings cannot get out of their own way in close games. Every contest has come down to one possession save for their thrashing of the Seahawks in Week 3. Minnesota lost to two previous AFC North opponents in the Bengals and Browns. The Ravens have the right way to exploit them after a bye with a running quarterback and dangerous downfield receivers.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens||“The Vikings looked lifeless on offense against the Cowboys and now face a Ravens defense that was shredded last time out. Can Kirk Cousins get it going? I think he does, but Lamar Jackson is even better. The Vikings will hang around.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||3 of 3 panelists pick Ravens||“Baltimore had last Sunday off. The Vikings lost to a backup quarterback.” — Mike Florio|
|Sports Illustrated||5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens||NA|
|Fansided||Ravens 34, Vikings 31||“This could go a million different ways. That said, Baltimore is the better team, at home, off a bye. The Ravens are also much better coached.” — Matt Verderame|
Ravens Have Second-Best Odds to Land Odell Beckham Jr.
Last week it was Allen Robinson. Now it's Odell Beckham Jr.
Despite the Ravens getting more production from their wide receivers this season than in years past, big-name receivers are again being linked to them.
If released by the Browns, Beckham would hit waivers first, meaning any team could claim him (if they can afford him).
"The Ravens would love him," Fox Sports' Nick Wright said on "First Things First."
Pro Football Network's Ben Rolfe wrote: "Could you imagine the feeling in Cleveland if Beckham walked out of their building and straight into Baltimore? Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, and Sammy Watkins are a solid trio, but Beckham would add another level of dynamic playmaking to go with them. The Ravens have also had issues with Bateman's health this year, and Watkins is injury-prone as well."
The Ringer's Steven Ruiz named the Ravens as one of four teams who "could stand to add another talented receiver to the depth chart."
I'm not so sure about that. Brown has emerged as a true No. 1 wide receiver this season, Bateman has been impressive in two games since returning from groin surgery and is just scratching the surface, and Watkins, Devin Duvernay and James Proche II have all been contributors.
Heavy.com noted that Beckham would likely be the No. 4 receiver with the Ravens, "which would likely frustrate him just as much as his lack of targets did in Cleveland."
"Like Robinson, Beckham wouldn't make sense as a midseason addition to the Ravens," Heavy.com wrote. "They simply don't need the two-time All-Pro, especially with the baggage he would bring from Cleveland."
Rolfe wrote: "Beckham is unlikely to want to come and be anything less than a starter. That could be a sticking point for the Ravens, especially if Beckham starts demanding targets in what is traditionally a run-first offense."
Patrick Ricard Is a Key Factor in Ravens Offense
As the Ravens begin the second half of their season, The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer said perhaps no player is in a more interesting spot than Ricard.
"He has been a constant on the Ravens' most successful passing packages. He has been the dependable lead blocker on a rushing attack that's no longer bowling defenses over," Shaffer wrote. "And he has molded his game over the past year to play more like the teammate [tight end Nick Boyle] who could be back from injury as soon as Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.
"The Ravens' plans for Ricard over the second half of this season could signal their broader plans for Greg Roman's offense. When wide receiver Sammy Watkins recovers from a thigh injury, will they favor spread attacks that highlight their newfound receiving talent? Or, when tight end Nick Boyle's knee is back to game shape, will they rely once more on their old-school, heavy-personnel groupings? Will the Ravens pass more or less? Will Ricard be a staple or an accessory?"