Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (hamstring) has a chance to return Sunday against the Vikings and tight end Nick Boyle (knee) has practiced the past couple weeks and could make his season debut this weekend.
“I don’t really know the limit with our offense. We’ve got a key guy back,” Jackson said, referring to Boyle. “The sky’s the limit. We’ve just got to take it a day at a time, a game at a time, one play at a time.
“I’m very excited. [Boyle] brings a lot to the table for us – catching the ball, blocking, doing it all for us. He’s got a little funny personality too. We missed that, too.”
“You always want to run the ball. They always talk about it – November, December – it’s how you take over games. The ball gets hard when it gets cold and all that,” guard Kevin Zeitler said. “So, I know this team has a lot of talent. We have the ability to run the ball, and we know we want to improve from the first seven weeks. And I think we have the guys to do it.”
Patrick Ricard keeps the Ravens’ offense on track. Where will they go in the season’s second half? - Jonas Shaffer
“I can see why offensive linemen get paid so much to do it,” he said during an interview last week. “It’s not one of those things where you get to have nine good pass protections, and then on one, give up a sack. That’s where they’re going to be really looking at. It’s like, ‘Oh, you gave up a sack.’ And that’s how it is for offensive linemen. They can have 30 pass protections, and you give up one sack, and they’re going to get looked at so badly by that one sack.”
As the Ravens regroup from their bye week, there is maybe no player in a spot more interesting than Ricard’s. 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. And he has molded his game over the past year to play more like the teammate 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?
Containing the big plays
The Ravens have given up big plays, but they’ve also recorded plenty. Baltimore’s offense ranks fourth in the NFL with 6.21 yards per play.
Besides the numerous threats posed by Jackson, the Ravens have been able to turn to multiple receiving targets for explosive plays.
WR Sammy Watkins is averaging 16.2 yards per catch (11th in the NFL among qualifiers). WR Marquise Brown ranks 16th (15.3 yards per catch), and TE Mark Andrews ranks 35th overall and fourth among tight ends (13.9).
Former Gopher Rashod Bateman, the 27th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, debuted in Week 6 and has totaled seven catches for 109 yards (15.6).
The Vikings must navigate those threats without Peterson, who will miss his second of at least three games in a row while he is on Injured Reserve and rehabbing a hamstring injury he suffered at Carolina.
NFL Week 9 picks: 49ers hand Cardinals second straight loss, Patriots stay hot, Giants pull off upset - Pete Prisco
Minnesota Vikings (+5.5) at Baltimore Ravens
The Vikings are coming off a tough loss, while the Ravens are coming off a bye. 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.
Pick: Ravens 26, Vikings 23
Ravens-Vikings Week 9 Preview, Prediction, Where to Watch - Todd Karpovich
The Ravens are admittedly having challenges with tackling opponents, and that will be a main area of focus heading into the game against the Vikings. Coach John Harbaugh has prioritized better technique and that will be key against Minnesota, which has several playmakers that can extend plays. Minnesota has physical wide receivers, including Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, that are capable of gaining several yards after they catch the ball. Running back Dalvin Cook (4.5 ypc) is also a physical runner. Quarterback Kirk Cousin has thrown for 1,953 yards with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions, He’ll attack a Ravens secondary that is ranked last in the NFL, allowing 296.1 yards passing per game. Still, Baltimore will look to shut down the run and make Minnesota one-dimensional with the passing game and possibly turn the ball over.’
Under head coach Harbaugh, Baltimore is 10-3 in games immediately following a bye week.
Baltimore has also won 11 straight games against NFC opponents, dating back to Week 13 of 2018 at Atlanta.
Baltimore is also getting healthier with Watkins, running back Latavius Murray and tight end Nick Boyle all with a chance to get back into the lineup. Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe could also return after resuming practice last week.
Ravens 34, Vikings 24