RAVENS AT VIKINGS
Sunday, October 22 | 1:00 PM
The Baltimore Ravens franchise appears to be at a crossroads point, and the “M” word is being thrown around a lot right now by critics who were once enamored of the team’s consistency at making deep playoff runs since 2008. It’s been three years since the Ravens last saw the playoffs, and the team has been so up-and-down in all phases of the game so far this season, the grumbling in the streets has begun—-change the coaching staff, get a new GM, draft a quarterback!
At $20 million a year, QB Joe Flacco still has two years left on his contract. He’s taking the brunt of the criticism for the team’s offensive woes so far in 2017, but the fact is he’s not paid to block, get open on routes, or catch passes that hit him in the numbers. What once was a strength of the Ravens offense—its offensive line—has become a weakness due to free-agent defections and a bunch of high profile injuries. When the Ravens’ O-Line gets pushed around and pushed backwards like it has been over the first 6 games, it doesn’t matter who’s playing quarterback. The results on offense will be mediocre.
Perhaps just as bad, the Ravens are getting run over on defense—literally. The former trademark of the franchise was it is built to stop the run. That just isn’t happening anymore—at least up to this point in 2017, and except for possibly getting DT Brandon Williams back on the field this Sunday, there is no good reason to believe the situation will improve against the Vikings this Sunday.
The Vikings may be without Sam Bradford at QB, but Case Keenum has proven he’s no slouch. He will manage the game based upon his own offensive line’s ability to open up big running lanes and also give him plenty of time to make smart reads in the passing game.
The Vikings defense is also as big, fast and mean as the Ravens defense used to be. This is going to be a very physical challenge for the current state of the Ravens.
“The fact that the Vikings defense ended Aaron Rodgers’ season isn’t the reason the Ravens should be worried about them,” wrote Sporting News’ David Steele. “It’s because that defense is a threat to any quarterback, particularly ones with poor, makeshift protection. The Vikings are seventh in the NFL in sacks and in interceptions and fifth in points per game. The Ravens, meanwhile, just lost to the Bears at home, and their only two touchdowns were on kick returns.”
Ugh. It doesn’t look good for Baltimore. Their “rise and conquer” motto will be put to the extreme test in Minnesota.
Sarah Ellison of BaltimoreRavens.com collected these short predictions by national media observers of just how bad it looks for the Ravens heading into Minnesota:
Who Has the Edge? Ravens-Vikings Scouting Report by Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun offers at least two areas of competitive hope for the Ravens:
As he does every week, Zrebiec offered a detailed scouting report for the upcoming matchup between the Ravens and Vikings, and Sarah Ellison pulled out a few thoughts below. Zrebiec predicts a 20-6 win for Minnesota.
“[T]he Ravens’ passing game morphed right back into the punchless, mistake-prone attack it has been for most of the season … With Sam Bradford ailing and Teddy Bridgewater just returning to practice, veteran Case Keenum is expected to start his fifth game this year. He’s been plenty serviceable, throwing five touchdown passes compared with just one interception.”
Edge = Vikings
“[Alex Collins and Buck Allen] both ran hard and well as the Ravens hit the 125-yard rushing mark for the fifth time in six games. … The season-ending knee injury to rookie Dalvin Cook was a big hit to Minnesota, but Jerick McKinnon has thrived in his absence.”
Edge = Even
“[Brandon] Williams’ return will help immensely, but the Ravens need more consistency from their young defensive ends and more discipline from their outside linebackers. … Minnesota’s run defense has stifled the opposition, allowing only 78.7 rushing yards per game.”
Edge = Vikings
“There have been a few breakdowns and the [Vikings] pass rush has disappeared at times, but this group has mostly been as advertised. … There is star power within this group. Defensive end Everson Griffen, who will likely see a lot of Ronnie Stanley, has a sack in six straight games and has seven sacks for the season.”
Edge = Ravens
So there is the grim picture— even where Zrebiec gives the Ravens some credit, it is definitely not a true competitive edge.
The “mediocrity” alarm has already been sounded. If the Ravens limp out of Minnesota at 3-4, the “M” word will become “Mob” as Ravens fans work themselves into a frenzy demanding wholesale regime changes.