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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Position-by-position: How the Vikings match up against the Ravens

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings (4-2) are set to play the Baltimore Ravens (3-3) at US Bank Stadium on Sunday. Both teams are dinged up, listing a total of 30 players on this week’s injury report. How will those injuries impact the matchup? Let’s have a look at how the Vikings and Ravens shape up by position:

Quarterback

Is there anything left of the old Joe Flacco?

Joe Flacco is playing the worst football of his career, ranking 32nd in the NFL in yards per game, 31st in quarterback rating and 30th in yards per attempt. He’s also thrown the second most interceptions in the NFL. Flacco was slowed by an injury that caused him to miss the entire preseason. He has shown more signs of being able to throw downfield over the past two weeks, but still doesn’t look anything close to the QB that won the Super Bowl in 2012.

Case Keenum gets another start with Sam Bradford still on the shelf with a knee injury and Teddy Bridgewater not yet ready to play. The Vikings’ backup has had some highs and lows in his five appearances. He was terrific against Tampa Bay and strong in a win over Chicago, but shaky against Pittsburgh, Detroit and Green Bay. Since throwing for 369 yards against the Bucs, Keenum has averaged only 6.7 yards per attempt as the Vikings have been forced to focus on shorter passes. With Stefon Diggs out and Michael Floyd out, he will have to continue to find ways to get Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph the ball and avoid making mistakes.

Advantage: Vikings

Running back

Film review: Play-actions and personnel packages driving Vikings passing game

With Terrance West out, the Ravens have been a by-committee running attack – and a pretty good one at that. Alex Collins, who spent last season with the Seahawks, has made an instant impact as a physical runner, gaining 6.4 yards per attempt on 52 carries this season. Collins shares the backfield with Javorius Allen, who is a 6-foot-1, 220-pound bruising runner. Allen also catches the ball out of the backfield, ranking second on the team in receptions.

Since Dalvin Cook went down with a season-ending ACL tear, Jerick McKinnon has done a terrific job in the run and passing game. He’s averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has 19 receptions out of the backfield. The Vikings’ speedster has shown big-play ability with his quickness, especially on outside runs. Latavius Murray is still yet to get going, though he did have runs of eight and 10 yards last week and showed improved burst.

The Ravens and Vikings have nearly identical rushing stats this season, ranking seventh and eighth, respectively, in yards.

Advantage: Draw

Wide receiver/tight end

Diggs, Floyd injuries offer prove-it chance for Treadwell

Both teams are dinged up at receiver. The Ravens will be without Breshad Perriman because of a concussion and both Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace are listed as questionable. Tight end Ben Watson, the team’s leader in receptions, also missed practice time this week. Wallace is the only receiver who is having a good season thus far, averaging 15.9 yards per catch on 15 receptions. He’s proven to still be a quality deep threat, catching two passes over 50 yards against the Raiders.

The Vikings have the NFC’s leading receiver in Adam Thielen, who continues to prove that he’s one of the best all-around receivers in the league. Keenum can throw him the ball in any situation, short or deep, and Thielen can win the battle for the ball. But the Vikings will be without Stefon Diggs for the second straight game and Michael Floyd is questionable, which puts pressure on Laquon Treadwell and Stacy Coley to make plays. Keenum and tight end Kyle Rudolph have found chemistry, especially on play-action throws. Rudolph ranks third on the team with 21 catches.

Advantage: Vikings

Offensive line

Baltimore has a good offensive line when healthy, but, like every other position, the Ravens’ O-line isn’t healthy. They will be without starting guard Matt Skura and top-notch left tackle Ronnie Stanley is questionable. The Ravens will have their center Ryan Jensen, who is one of the better players at the position, ranking third in Pro Football Focus ratings. Up front, the Ravens can run block at a high level, but the Vikings are third best in the NFL in yards per attempt allowed.

The Vikings’ offensive line has driven their success on offense. The mobility of rookie center Pat Elflein has allowed Minnesota to have success in the outside running and screen game, while the toughness of Riley Reiff has given Vikings’ QBs more time in the pocket. Reiff is still yet to allow a sack. Reiff is questionable for the game with a foot injury, which is a big concern with Terrell Suggs coming off the edge. Nick Easton also won’t play. Filling in for Easton, Jeremiah Sirles struggled in pass protection last week.

Advantage: Draw

Defensive line

Pro Football Focus ranks Vikings as NFL’s best defense

Baltimore’s D-line got good news with defensive tackle Brandon Williams practicing fully. He is a load to handle inside and will offer a difficult matchup for Elflein. Even if Williams is limited, the Ravens also have 340-pound Michael Pierce stuffing the run. Keep an eye out for situational pass rusher Willie Henry to provide the occasional QB hurry.

The Vikings’ defensive line continued to eat up quarterbacks as they sacked Brett Hundley four times last week. Everson Griffen has at least one sack in every game this season. While Danielle Hunter only has two sacks, he’s still pressured and hit QBs consistently. Nose tackle Linval Joseph is the No. 1 player responsible for the Vikings’ success against the run and Tom Johnson has held down the three-technique spot well.

Advantage: Vikings

Linebackers

Terrell Suggs still a top linebacker at age 35

Terrell Suggs may be 35, but he’s still a dangerous pass rusher. He leads the Ravens with 4.5 sacks this season. He’s powerful, driven and savvy. If the Vikings are without Riley Reiff, he will present a huge challenge for inexperienced tackle Rashod Hill. Baltimore’s middle linebacker CJ Mosley has become a quality all-around player. He can track down screens and cover tight ends 1-on-1. The Vikings will have to account for him when establishing their short passing game.

Anthony Barr suffered a concussion last week against the Packers, but it appears he will be back against the Ravens. He’s been playing at the top of his game this season, ranking sixth by Pro Football Focus metrics among inside linebackers. Barr has blown up run plays and created pressure when asked to rush. His biggest improvement has been in coverage. Eric Kendricks doesn’t have the highest PFF grade, but he’s proven has one of the best cover linebackers in the league.

Advantage: Draw

Defensive backs

Baltimore’s group of defensive backs is among the best in the NFL. They beefed up the secondary by signing former Cardinal Tony Jefferson, a top-notch run stopper, to go along with Eric Weddle, who is one of the top players at the position over the past decade. Cornerback Jimmy Smith has consistently been a quality corner since stepping into the league in 2011, but he’s also on the injury report as questionable for Sunday’s game. The Ravens added experienced slot corner Brandon Carr to bolster their DB group and 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey has gotten off to a good start to his career.

For the Vikings, Harrison Smith is among the NFL’s best defensive players over the first six weeks, ranking No. 1 in Pro Football Focus’s ratings. He has interceptions in the last two games and picked up 1.5 sacks against the Packers. Xavier Rhodes is earning every dollar of his new deal, allowing a 52 quarterback rating on throws in his direction – which rarely happen these days. Since a rough start, Trae Waynes has improved his game and Terence Newman is still going strong at 39. The Vikings’ two depth corners Mackensie Alexander and Tramaine Brock are both questionable for the game.

Advantage: Slight edge to Vikings

The post Position-by-position: How the Vikings match up against the Ravens appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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