The Ravens are set to take on the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET).
*BR.com offers a look at Baltimore's next opponent. *
2009 Rankings* *
Total Offense – 19th (332.6 ypg) Total Defense – 14th (320.6)
Rush Offense – 11th (116.6) Rush Defense – 10th (96.0)
Pass Offense – 17th (216.0) Pass Defense – 18th (224.6)
Points Per Game – 3rd (31.2) Points Per Game – T9th (18.0)
Sizing Them Up
Vikings head coach Brad Childress used to coach with the Ravens' John Harbaugh for the Philadelphia Eagles, so this undefeated team is similar to the Ravens in toughness and focus.
Offensively, the biggest story in the offseason was the return of quarterback Brett Farve. The 40-year-old was limited by a biceps injury towards the end of last year, but he has rejuvenated his career in Minnesota. In Week 5, Farve threw for 232 yards and a touchdowns, picking apart the St. Louis Rams' defense.
Farve has solid weapons in tall receivers Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice, but perhaps the most dangerous is speedy rookie Percy Harvin, who is also an explosive returner.
The Vikings' offense, however, is built around running back Adrian Peterson. Possessing quick and nimble feet, Peterson is also a big back that can bowl over tacklers with his violent running style.
On defense, it all starts up front for Minnesota. The Vikings have two massive run-stuffers with Pat and Kevin Williams, both of whom are Pro Bowlers, and an elite pass rusher in defensive end Jared Allen.
Cleaning up the tackles from sideline to sideline is Maryland product E.J. Henderson and first-round choice Chad Greenway.
What's Up?* *
My counterpart, Mike Wobschall of Vikings.com, writes that Minnesota is expecting an "angry" Ravens defense.
"As Vikings prepare to host a Ravens team that has lost 2 consecutive close games and a Ravens defense that is chomping at the bit to begin a new streak against opposing RBs, they know this Baltimore defense will be an angry one."
Jeff Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune points out how the Vikings have trouble against tight ends.
"In five games, an opposing tight end has either led his team or been tied for the team lead in receptions on four occasions."
Chip Scoggins, also with the Star-Tribune, is looking forward to the first Peterson hit with Ray Lewis.
"A Peterson-Lewis collision would qualify as a super heavyweight matchup, one built on mutual respect. Peterson often expresses his admiration for how certain guys play the game, and Lewis is at the top of that list along with Vikings quarterback Brett Favre."
Offensive – Peterson, nicknamed "All Day," certainly brings it all day. The Oklahoma product is currently second in the NFL with 481 rushing yards and a 96.2-yard average per game. Peterson also leads the league with seven rushing touchdowns. A threat to break a big run at any moment, Peterson also has 13 rushes for 10 or more yards.
Defensive – Allen has the ability to completely alter the was an opposing offense functions with hiss pass-rushing ability. He is third in the NFL with 6.5 sacks, 4.5 of which came in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers for the second-highest single-game total in Vikings history. Last season, Allen notched an impressive 14.5 sacks and 52 quarterback hurries.
WR Percy Harvin
The Florida alumnus is third among all rookies with 18 receptions that have amassed 233 receiving yards, which is tied for the Vikings lead. In addition, Harvin is a special teams threat. He brought back a kickoff 101 yards in Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers. Harvin is second in the league with a 31.2-yard average on kickoff returns.
Ravens OT Michael Oher vs. Vikings DE Jared AllenThis is critical for Oher, who is likely to start at left tackle for the injured Jared Gaither (neck). The rookie faced a tough test last week in Cincinnati's Antwan Odom, who was held without a sack, but Allen is more of a speed rusher. Oher will have to block to the whistle to combat Allen's high motor.
Ravens ILB Ray Lewis vs. Vikings RB Adrian PetersonAs shown by his fine-inducing blowup of Chad Ochocinco last week, Lewis is still one of the biggest hitters in the league. So is Peterson. With the Ravens' defensive tackles taking up blockers, look for Lewis to be running full speed after the fleet Peterson – and the epic collisions that follow.
Childress on what makes it tough to run against the Ravens' defense:"I think they're extremely stout in the front seven, and then you add a safety in there. Kelly Gregg is a guy that we had and mistakenly waived in Philadelphia. That was the Ravens' fortune. He's been a good player for a long time. I think, obviously, if I pronounce it correctly, Haloti Ngata is a force in there. He's explosive. He plays with power, plays with quickness. He can move down the line of scrimmage. Ray [Lewis] has been doing it at such a high level for a long time. And that doesn't take anything away from Terrell Suggs. I know he's known as a pass-rusher, but he plays with great leverage in the run game. I have great respect for Jarret Johnson. You don't hear his name very often, but watching him play, he's a good football player. I think it's a very stout front seven. It's all dominoes. Everybody's got to play off of everybody else. But, knowing 'Harbs' the way I know him, they were always going to be stout against the run and be able to run the ball. That's a great place to start. I might add that Greg Mattison and I go back to him being a graduate assistant when I was playing at Illinois. You can find out what kind of horrific football player I was from 'Matti.' It's really a small circle when you go back."
Farve on what impresses him about RB Adrian Peterson and the balance he brings to an offense: "It helps tremendously. You'd be hard pressed to find a quarterback anywhere who would say not having Adrian Peterson would be a bonus for us. I mean, handing the ball to him… To not be one-dimensional for any quarterback or any play-caller is a luxury. You have the last three weeks, Adrian has been held in check for the most part. But there's always that threat. There are several things, and I've said this every week that I've been asked this question, but there are several things that really impress me about Adrian, first of which is his work ethic and his humbleness. I've played this game a long time, and all the good ones that I've been around were all humble. A lot of those guys were later on in their career or later in my career. But, to see a guy who is as young is he is who has had the success that he has, at such a young and quick age, to be as humble... He walks around with a smile on his face. If he gets stopped for three yards, he gets up with a smile on his face, and he's determined to go back in. The next play, he very easily could go 60 [yards]. That's what's really impressive about him. The guy is physical, he's fast – all the things you could think of. I'm telling you, I've seen it from afar and I've seen it from close. He can take nothing and give you 70 in a heartbeat, just when you think you have him bottled up."
Every week is a must-win in the NFL, but this game is critical for the Ravens in order to break their two-game losing skid heading into the bye.
I wrote about it earlier this week. The Ravens are looking at it as just another game, one that they must take. Still, the notion of having the taste of three consecutive losses in your mouth doesn't sound appetizing.
How can the Ravens take down a 5-0 Vikings team that is as hot as any in the league?
The biggest thing is going to be containing All Day. Peterson is such a beast, that if he gets going, it could be lights out in the Metrodome early. That venue is so loud, that a long Peterson gain in the first quarter could charge up the fan base and rattle the Ravens.
I'm guessing that last Sunday's offensive letdown was an anomaly and Joe Flacco will go back to receiver Derrick Mason, and coordinator Cam Cameron will insert running back Willis McGahee into the game plan more.
The Ravens always say that their defense is predicated on stopping the run. Seven days after the unit surrendered 120 yards to Cincinnati's Cedric Benson, that philosophy could not be more apt.