This is by far the toughest game the Baltimore Ravens have faced so far in 2009. The undefeated Vikings sit atop the NFC North at 5-0 and while many people will say they really haven't played anyone, they have won every game on their schedule so far and you can't ask any more than that. Too bad the Ravens didn't play better at the end of the games the past two weeks as this would have been a even better matchup if we had two 5-0 teams going at it this Sunday!
Surprisingly, Minnesota is listed as a three point favorite, which is the typical home field advantage and that basically means that the oddsmakers think this is pretty much an even game. Even as a huge Ravens fan, I see the Vikings as more of a six point favorite, although I guess the guys in Vegas have seen the close games that were just seconds away from victories for us.
More on "How To Beat The Minnesota Vikings" after the 'Jump')
So how in the world does this so-called "snake-bitten" Ravens team go into a dome, in a city where they're never played before, and beat an undefeated Vikings team that has the best RB in the league and one of the best QB's ever? How about by playing up to your potential for a full sixty minutes? If the Ravens had done that the past two weeks, this would have been that great game between two undefeated teams. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
So now we have a 3-2 team on a disappointing two game losing streak hoping to go into our Bye week on a good note, but facing the very real possibility that we will end the first six games at .500 and 3-3, in 3rd place in our own division! That would be a free fall that would make for a tough Bye week prior to having another undefeated team (Denver Broncos) come into town for our seventh game.
However, we can start an upswing in both momentum and enthusiasm by pinning the first loss on Minnesota in front of their home fans. The Vikings have been susceptible to the passing game and the Ravens need to go downfield for longer passes than they did the past week. Deep throws to the wideouts can result in big gains and the quick touchdown that this team needs to win. Perhaps we may even see an appearance of new Ravens and former New York Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree in this game. Pounding the rock on the ground to force the Vikings to concentrate on stopping that first will go a long way towards opening up the passing lanes. The Vikings have a great defensive line and their front seven is as good as any in the NFL. Therefore, in order to burst through that group, we will need to involve both Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain in the run game much more than we did last week. If we stick to that game plan, our offense should be able to move the ball. If QB Joe Flacco stays away from the Red Zone mistakes he's made the last two weeks that took points off the board that may have been enough to win those games, then our offense will be doing its part.
Defensively, we just have to be better than we were last week. I realize that until late in the game, we had only given up 10 points, but we were unable to stop an 80 yard drive with the game on the line and that just can't reoccur this week. Most people figure that if we couldn't stop Cedric Benson, then how in the world will we be able to stop Adrian Peterson? Well, this is going to have to happen to win the game and it all starts in the trenches. We need to get pressure into the backfield on the running game to slow down the quick start of AP, making him stutter step while we fill our lanes and gang tackle him. While Brett Favre was a great QB and is having a super season so far, placing the need to win the game on his shoulders is what we want to see happen. In 2005, Favre came into M&T Bank Stadium as a Green Bay Packer and once his run game was shut down, he was unable to pass the Pack to victory, as he threw two interceptions before being removed from the game in a 49-3 Ravens victory.
So our goal on defense is going to make him think he can beat our DB's and throw the ball more than the Vikings plan to. At the same time, if we do not get pressure on him, even a 40 year old guy will pick us apart. Therefore, just like most games, this one also will be determined in the trenches and while the Ravens have the personnel to win both sides of the ball, the Vikings do as well with an excellent offensive line that practices daily against one of the best defensive lines in the game. Last week the Ravens lost the battle of the trenches on both sides to the Bengals and the game as well. If we do the same thing this week, the result will be another loss. However, if we play with the emotion and without the stupid penalties, then we should be in position to win the game as the clock ticks down. All Ravens fans might be concerned that this is a very real contender for a Super Bowl title that we are facing but deep inside we know that if the Ravens play "Like a Raven" to the level of competition we know this team can rise to, then there is no reason we can't shock the NFL this Sunday and return home for a well deserved Bye at 4-2.