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Lunchbreak: The Athletic Previews Vikings-Ravens Matchup

The Vikings are on the road for four of their next five games, a stretch that begins Sunday against the Ravens.

Minnesota may be viewed as underdogs against Baltimore, but Chad Graff, Arif Hasan and Jon Krawczynski recently offered their projections on how the 3-4 Vikings can get back to .500 by Sunday afternoon.

Graff and Krawczynski had similar thoughts in that they both opined Minnesota's passing attack needs to thrive against Baltimore's blitz-happy defense.

Graff wrote that the focus will be on Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.

The Vikings' deep passing attack reemerges and bootlegs allow Cousins to hit Jefferson and Thielen a bunch. The two star receivers haven't gotten involved in downfield passes nearly enough, and that will have to change for the Vikings to pull off an upset.

Krawczynski outlined a blueprint from Week 7 when Cincinnati racked up 520 yards of total offense against Baltimore.

They stop messing around on offense and start using the weapons they have down the field. Joe Burrow threw for 416 yards two weeks ago. Ja'Marr Chase had over 200 yards receiving. Throw it often and throw it deep.

The Vikings are coming off their worst offensive performance of the season in a Week 8 home loss to the Cowboys.

Cousins threw for a season-low 184 yards, and Minnesota converted just once on 13 tries on third downs.

Hasan, meanwhile, opined that the Vikings need to neutralize Lamar Jackson's running ability. The Ravens quarterback leads the league with 6.3 yards per carry.

Hasan wrote that Vikings can win if "They force Jackson to throw the ball. Not because Jackson is a bad passer — he's among the league's best. But rather because I can't get it out of my head that it would only take a few Jackson runs before a 70-yard touchdown scamper appears on another Minnesota lowlight reel. The Vikings are better against the pass than the run and if they sell out against the run, they might be able to keep up."

Jackson ranks fourth in total yards with 2,318. The three players above him — Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Matthew Stafford — have played eight games compared to Jackson's seven.

As for the outcome, the trio of Graff, Hasan and Krawczynski all picked the Ravens to win, but have the Vikings hanging close and losing by eight or fewer points.

Westbrook likely to resume punt return duties

Dede Westbrook could be back in a familiar spot Sunday.

Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press recently wrote that the 27-year-old could resume punt return duties against the Ravens:

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken said wide receiver Dede Westbrook will again return punts Sunday after missing the Dallas game with an ankle injury. Wide receiver K.J. Osborn had replaced Westbrook.

Westbrook has 12 returns for 52 yards in his first season in Purple.

He has 59 punt returns for 513 yards and a touchdown in his career.