The Sports Xchange, Published December 05 2013
Vikings-Ravens game features intriguing matchupsKeys to the game: QB Matt Cassel guided the Vikings to an overtime victory against the Bears last week and gets another start with Christian Ponder (concussion) on the mend. The offense is limited when RB Adrian Peterson doesn't have room to run. Peterson, who has 67 carries for 357 yards the past two weeks, will have smaller creases this week against Baltimore's sixth-ranked run defense. The Ravens will load up to take away Peterson, forcing Cassel to be accurate in Minnesota's controlled passing game. The Ravens are a diametrical opposite on offense -- 32nd in rushing yards per play and increasingly reliant on QB Joe Flacco to pop a few big plays to produce points. WRs Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith are capable of getting yards in chunks against Minnesota's milquetoast secondary.
Matchup to watch: Vikings K Blair Walsh vs. Ravens K Justin Tucker: Each team has won and lost games with special teams play. The second-year players are the two most accurate kickers in NFL history. Tucker (92.2 percent) ranks No. 1 and has made an NFL-best 27 consecutive field-goal attempts. Walsh, last year's All-Pro kicker, is at 90.5 percent. But he already missed as many attempts (three) this year as he did all last season. Walsh has made 22 of 25 a year after making 35 of 38.
Player spotlight - Vikings KR Cordarrelle Patterson: The explosive rookie leads the NFL with a 34-yard average with two touchdowns. Minnesota is trying to get him more involved. Last week, he lined up as a running back and had a 33-yard TD run.
Fast facts - Peterson has five career 200-yard rushing games, second in NFL history. ... Flacco has 2,993 passing yards and would be the first Ravens quarterback with five consecutive seasons over 3,000.
Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1) at Baltimore Ravens (6-6)
Sunday, noon, at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md. - TV: FOX
TV announcers: Chris Myers, Tim Ryan, Jennifer Hale
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
Physical and dominant at home (26-4 since 2010), the Ravens can withstand the one-man show of Adrian Peterson if they avoid turnovers and take advantage of weak spots in Minnesota's pass defense.
*Our pick: Ravens 24-15