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Final Thoughts: Vikings vs Ravens

Points may be at a premium today.

When the Vikings and Ravens kick things off today at U.S. Bank Stadium, they'll represent the second-stingiest matchup according to the numbers. The Vikings rank No. 5 in scoring defense at 17.2 points per game and the Ravens rank No. 11 at 20.7 points allowed per game. Only the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh match up features two higher-ranked teams in terms of points allowed and no NFN matchup this week has a lower point total (38.5) in according to the bookmakers.

Just keep this in mind as you watch the game and follow along with the decision making by both teams. Most every decision, from whether to go for it on 4th down or punt/kick a field goal to red zone play calls to whether to try and score on the final drive before halftime will come down to the premise that points will be hard to come by in this contest.

A very makeable 4th and inches at the opponent's 25 in a scoreless game may become a field goal situation. Down by seven midway through the 4th quarter and facing 4th and a few in opponent's territory may become a time to go for it. Punting can be a weapon, field position is among the top priorities and a score on defense or special teams is a boon.

Here are a few final thoughts from the week that was as the Vikings prepared to face the Baltimore Ravens.

Brandon Williams is back for Baltimore, and that matters

It looks like the anchor of the Ravens defense will return on Sunday. Brandon Williams missed the past four games with a foot injury but has a full participant in practice each day this week. At 6-1, 340 pounds, Williams has that rare size/strength/quickness combination and it allows him to wreck plays. The Ravens allowed 85 rushing yards per game with Williams in the first two weeks and in the four games without him that number ballooned to 169.5 yards per game. Also, the Ravens have half of their 16 sacks in the two games in which Williams has played. So he matters to Baltimore's defense and he will be playing on Sunday. His inclusions is even more noteworthy when you consider the fact the Vikings will be operating on offense without starting left guard Nick Easton for a second consecutive game, meaning backup Jeremiah Sirles will be asked to step up just as he did last week against Mike Daniels and the Green Bay Packers interior defensive line.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Ravens.

Stat of the week

66 for 66 (100%)

That is Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker has not missed an extra point since the NFL moved the attempt to a 33-yard try before the start of the 2015 season. Incredible stat. Dallas kicker Dan Bailey also has not missed an extra point since it was moved back, and his streak (85 for 85) is a bit more impressive because his team has scored more touchdowns. Bravo, fellas.

Quote of the week

"I hope that my story can motivate someone. The future is bright." – Teddy Bridgewater

This quote perfectly illustrates the mindset and attitude of Teddy Bridgewater from the first days after his injury 14 months ago all the way through his first week back on the practice field. From the start, Bridgewater insisted he saw the positive in what was an otherwise negative situation and even now that he's back, he's more focused on being an inspiration to others than he is to drawing attention to his own return. There is greatness inside Teddy Bridgewater.

Three threats

Looking ahead – The Vikings have won two straight and three out of four, which has put them atop the NFC North standings through six weeks. They are favored on Sunday against Baltimore and should be favored next week in London against Cleveland, which means they have a good chance of being 6-2 heading into the bye. But looking ahead is risky business in this League, so the Vikings can ill-afford to do anything but put everything they have into fighting a Ravens team that will come to U.S. Bank Stadium as underdogs and put up their best shot.

Matthew Judon – You already know about Terrell Suggs and Brandon Williams being back is also big for Baltimore, but make sure you get to know Matthew Judon. He is just the latest terror in the Ravens front seven. He can line up in multiple places along the Ravens defensive front and he forms a great tandem on the opposite side of the formation as Suggs. Judon has 2.0 sacks this season and 4.0 other tackles for loss, so he's proven to be disruptive and his presence makes it hard to double Suggs and Williams every play because he demands extra attention, too. 

Mike Wallace – The Vikings defense is so complete and playing at such a high level right now that it's hard to see any offense sustaining drives and marching down the field. That means big plays could be the way opposing teams choose to go, and if the Ravens take to that strategy then Wallace becomes the top target in the passing game; Wallace is listed as questionable on the injury report with a back injury). Wallace leads the Ravens in receiving yards (239) even though he's fourth in receptions, indicating just how big of a big-play threat he can be; Wallace is averaging 15.9 yards per reception.

Your Mail

A single play that illustrates Viking TEAM play is Xavier Rhodes' interception. Everson Griffen spin move pressuring the QB, Mackensie Alexander deflects the ball, Rhodes gets the interception. Players doing their job. Great technique, athleticism and positioning. Great Coaching. Result the better TEAM. Skol Vikings!

-- Noel Bayfield, WI

On most sensational plays, such as interceptions or sacks or tackles for loss, often times multiple player are doing their job in a way that allows for a teammate to wind up with the highlight-caliber play. It can be something subtle like using proper leverage, or something obvious like a quarterback pressure or tipped ball. The Vikings have been playing solid team defense all season and it showed against the Packers last week.

What can you tell us about the offensive line's performance thus far this year? Has there been a deep scheme change or is it just the personnel change?

-- Dave

The Vikings offensive line has been markedly improved this season compared to last season. So far in 2017, the Vikings are averaging 72.7 yards per scoring drive and have totaled seven scoring drives of 80+ yards. Also, the Vikings have 30 plays of 20+ yards this season, which ranks second in the NFL. This type of production is an indicator that the offensive line is doing its job. I'm sure there were some tweaks to the scheme this past offseason heading into the 2017 regular season, but more significant, in my eyes, was the additions of Pat Elflein, Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. Coaching matters in this League, but even the best coaches need talent with which to work. With all the injuries the Vikings sustained to the offensive line last season, I don't think Tony Sparano had much of a chance to look good. Now that Sparano has talent in his room, he's starting to show the difference he can make.

I think this is the game Laquon Treadwell has a breakout game.

-- Curtis Easton Easton, PA

That would be very well timed given that the Vikings will be without Stefon Diggs and could be without Michael Floyd.

Broadcast Info

National Television: CBS

Play-by-play: Greg Gumbel

Analyst: Trent Green

Sideline: Jamie Erdahl

Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130

Play-by-play: Paul Allen

Analyst: Pete Bercich

Sideline: Greg Coleman, Ben Leber

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