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The Skinny Post: Vikings Set for Rare Matchup with Ravens

Posted Oct 20, 2017

The Vikings will face an unfamiliar foe Sunday when they welcome the Ravens to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday for a noon (CT) kickoff.

Minnesota has faced Baltimore just five times, the second-fewest games against a team in franchise history.

The Vikings are 4-2 and atop the NFC North after recording back-to-back wins. Minnesota earned a 23-10 win over Green Bay this past Sunday in Minnesota’s best defensive effort of the season.

The Ravens are 3-3 following an overtime loss at home to Chicago this past weekend.

Here are three areas to watch in Sunday’s contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

Home cookin’ | By @Eric_L_Smith

It’s been home sweet home for the Vikings so far in 2017, as Sunday marks the fifth time in seven games Minnesota will play at U.S. Bank Stadium. 

While that means the second-half of the schedule will be a heavy road slate, Sunday’s game against Baltimore gives the Vikings another chance to hold serve in front of 66,000-plus raucous fans.

Minnesota currently sports a 3-1 record at home, and hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in its own stadium.

“Big game this week against the Ravens. Good football team,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. “We need to get our fans to make this the loudest stadium in the NFL, the most rowdy stadium in the NFL, so we can get a little bit of home-field advantage here against this team.” 

The Ravens are making a rare trip to Minnesota. Since the teams first played in 1998, four of the five meetings have taken place in Baltimore.

Baltimore’s lone trip to Minnesota was in 2009 at the Metrodome, a game the Vikings won 33-31 as Ryan Longwell kicked a go-ahead 31-yard field goal with just under two minutes remaining.

Balanced offense | By @pcraigers

Case Keenum will be making his fifth start for the Vikings and has shown considerable comfort with Minnesota’s offense. He is 102-of-159 (64.2 percent completion rate) for 1,134 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception.

Sixteen of Keenum’s completions have resulted in gains of 20 or more yards, and he’s also added two scrambles of more than 15 yards. In addition to the big plays, Keenum also has taken care of the football, which is greatly appreciated by the Vikings defense.

The Vikings running back tandem of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have boosted their production with increased opportunities since the season-ending knee injury to Dalvin Cook in Week 4.

McKinnon has 245 combined yards (164 rushing, 81 receiving) in the past two games. 

The Vikings have already rushed for 703 yards and have four games with more than 112 yards on the ground. Last season, Minnesota finished last in the NFL with 1,205 rushing yards (75.3 per game). 

Minnesota will try to continue its balance and ball security against Baltimore.

Setting focus on special teams | By @LindseyMNSports

Six games in, the Vikings may be facing their toughest special-teams opponent yet for the season.

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh was the special teams coordinator in Philadelphia before beginning his head coaching tenure, and it’s a unit that has been well-run in Baltimore for several years. The Ravens returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in their overtime loss to Chicago last week, and the Vikings will need to be on their toes to corral Bobby Rainey and Michael Campanaro.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer also said that Justin Tucker and Sam Koch are among the league’s top kickers and punters, respectively.

“We have a good game plan, and we just have to go out and play our game,” Priefer said. “Play hard and play fast and finish plays – play faster and longer than them, and get after them. I’m looking forward to the challenge." 

And as far as Minnesota is concerned? Priefer said the Vikings need to improve their own return game.

“I’d like to get our punt return game going. I think we left some yards on the field last week against Green Bay,” Priefer said. “Kickoff return, we’re still not anywhere near where we’ve been in the past. So, we’ve got to continue to work on that.”

Substantial Stats

— Minnesota’s defense leads the NFL in third-down percentage. The Vikings have allowed 18 conversions on 72 attempts (25 percent).

— Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen is the only player in the NFL with at least five receptions in six games this season. Thielen ranks first in the NFC and third in the NFL with 489 receiving yards.

— The Vikings rank second in the NFL with 30 plays of 20-plus yards in 2017. Minnesota has 23 passes and seven runs of at least 20 yards.

— Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen is tied for fourth in the NFL with 7.0 sacks. Griffen has a sack in six straight games, which is a career-best streak. 

Quotable

“We’re playing at a high level, but we have to keep it up. We have to keep on stopping the run and playing our keys, contesting throws and [not allow] big plays.”

— Everson Griffen on the Vikings defense.