|BALTIMORE RAVENS (3-2)||GAME #6||MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-0)|
|Date:||18 October 2009||Location:||Minneapolis, MN|
|Time:||12:00 PM CST||Stadium:||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome|
DirecTV Ch. 705
|Know Thy Enemy:||Baltimore Beatdown|
|Gonzo's Prediction:||Vikings 23, Ravens 20|
|Final Score:||Vikings 33, Ravens 31|
This is the Game Thread, as evidenced by the fancy table there at the top.
This appears, at least on paper, to be the toughest matchup that the Vikings have faced over the first six weeks of the 2009 season. The Ravens have been outstanding on offense this season (5th in the NFL in points scored and yards/game), and while their defense has been good, it hasn't quite been what it has in the past (12th in the NFL in points allowed and 10th in yardage, including 26th in the NFL against the pass). The Vikings offense has been highly efficient (3rd in the NFL in scoring while only being 19th in yardage) and have played solid defense as well (10th in the NFL in scoring defense and 14th in yards/game). So, what are the keys for Minnesota to win this afternoon?
1) Keep Brett Favre upright - After going down seven times against Cleveland and Detroit to start the season, Favre has only been sacked four times in the past three games, and the pass protection has improved greatly as the season has gone on. The Baltimore front seven, featuring such talented players as Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata, is still very good. They don't blitz as much under new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison as they did under Rex Ryan, but they're still capable of getting to the quarterback. If the Vikings can keep the Raven rushers away from #4, he could have a field day operating against an underachieving Baltimore secondary.
2) Get the crowd involved early - While Ravens' QB Joe Flacco has performed extremely well this season, it's still only his second season in the NFL, and he can still get rattled by the atmosphere in the Metrodome, as well as the absence of his starting left tackle, Jared Gaither. (Rookie OT Michael Oher will be lined up across from Jared Allen this afternoon, while converted guard Marshal Yanda will man Oher's spot at RT in Gaither's absence.) Whether it's offensively or defensively, a big play or two at the start of this game could really get the Dome rocking and possibly throw the youngster off of his game.
3) Try to get the running game going - The Ravens have been one of the NFL's stingiest run defenses over the first five weeks, giving up only 76 yards/game (good for 4th in the NFL). However, they gave up their first 100-yard rusher in a long time last week when Cincinnati's Cedric Benson gashed them in their victory over the Ravens last weekend. While the Vikings' offense hasn't needed to be carried by Adrian Peterson through the first five weeks of the year, he's still the best running back in the NFL, and is capable of having a big game against just about anybody. If the Vikings can get Peterson and Chester Taylor established early, it could go a long way towards keeping Brett Favre on his feet and off his back, which could lead to big days for both of them.
This should be a bruising, physical matchup between two of the NFL's most talented teams. It could very well come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes, and that could play to the Vikings advantage, as they've only turned the ball over four times in the first five games (2 interceptions, 2 lost fumbles) and are +8 in the ever-so-important turnover margin. The Ravens are +2 in that category, having forced nine turnovers in their first five games while turning it over seven times themselves (5 interceptions, 2 lost fumbles). I'm looking forward to a hard-fought, close game of football this afternoon, and hopefully one where nobody comes out with any significant injuries.
It's about an hour and a half until kickoff, folks. Whether we have a new thread every quarter or for each half is going to be dependent on comment traffic, and I'll be sure to keep you appraised of how it's going to go. Hope to see a big turnout this afternoon!