Overview: What a difference two weeks can make. It was only 14 days ago that the Baltimore Ravens seemed poised to become one of the elite teams in the NFL. Now, following consecutive losses to the Patriots and Bengals, they are instead facing an early must-win game on the road against an undefeated Minnesota Vikings squad.
Last Week: The Ravens were out-played both offensively and defensively by the Cincinnati Bengals, but still had a chance to win the game. They were leading until Carson Palmer drove the Bengals 80 yards in the final minutes to pull out the 17-14 victory. The much-heralded Ravens defense has been struggling in recent weeks and continued that trend against the Bengals as they allowed 403 total yards, including 142 yards on the ground. The Baltimore offense had their weakest performance of the year as they were limited to only 82 yards rushing and 257 total yards.
The Vikings participated in little more than a glorified scrimmage against the St. Louis Rams. Minnesota handed the Rams their 15th straight defeat with an easy 38-10 victory. Brett Favre posted a solid effort connecting on 18 of 24 passes for 232 yards a touchdown and an interception. Adrian Peterson gained only 69 yards, but scored two touchdowns.
All-Time Series: This will be just the fourth meeting between the Ravens and Vikings with Baltimore holding a 2-1 series advantage. The ravens won the last meeting between the two squads 30-23 in 2005 as Kyle Boller tossed three touchdown passes.
Key Questions Entering Week Six:
Baltimore Ravens: The last-minute loss to the Patriots two weeks ago seemed to zap some of the energy and swagger out of the ravens. They nearly won against Cincinnati, but were out-played. The question entering week six is whether the defense can rebound from a number of sub-par performances to stop Favre, Peterson and the high-powered Vikings.
Minnesota Vikings: Last week Cedric Benson became the first player in 40 games to rush for 100 yards against the Ravens defense. The question for the Vikings is whether their All-Pro runner, Adrian Peterson, can follow in Benson’s footprints and eat up yards against the Ravens.
Player To Watch:
Baltimore Ravens: Second year quarterback Joe Flacco had his weakest offensive numbers of the season against the Bengals. It won’t be any easier for him this week as the Vikings have registered 16 sacks and six interceptions through the first five games of the season.
Minnesota Vikings: Defensive end Jared Allen is having an MVP caliber season for the Vikings and will look to continue his strong play against Flacco and the Ravens. If Allen is able to disrupt the passing game, it could be a long day for the visitors.
Predictions: There is no question that Minnesota is a good team, but I’m not yet convinced that they are as good as their record would indicate. Three of their wins are over arguably the worst three teams in the league (Lions, Browns and Rams). The other two were close games where the Vikings made the big play down the stretch to pull out the victory. Had this game been played two weeks ago, I would have easily predicted the Ravens would swagger into town and pull out the victory. However, they have lost some of their mojo in the last two games and it is debatable whether they can get it back against a solid Minnesota team. However, in games like this I tend to side with the team that needs the victory more and in this case that is certainly the Ravens.
Final Score: Ravens 24, Vikings 21.